Archive for June, 2010

Another One: The Rick Barber Edition

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I can’t wait for the Emmys’ new “Most Unhinged Alabama Primary Commercial” category. In addition to this one and this one, Rick Barber comes through with perhaps the most deranged ad of the season. Yay!

Yes, that’s Rick Barber comparing our current tax rates (lowest since 1950) to human bondage. He also throws in a couple Holocaust images and pisses on the corpse of Abe Lincoln in order to pander with crazed candor. Then, for some reason there’s an alcoholic-looking hilljack with a lilting choir boy voice mashing the Star Spangled Banner with some moonshine-inspired lingo. Odd.

So disturbing is this creep, that Ruth Marcus felt compelled to scribble an entire editorial about this teabagger.

Images flash by: African slaves. North Korean prisoners. Concentration camps. “We shed a lot of blood to stop that in the past, didn’t we?” asks Barber, a Marine Corps veteran. “Now look at us. We are all becoming slaves to our government.”  [...]

The taxes over which Barber is ready to revolt are the product of a democratic system, approved by a majority of elected lawmakers — the system that could produce a Congressman Barber if he somehow wins the runoff against Montgomery councilwoman Martha Roby to face incumbent, first-term Democrat Bobby Bright, who won in 2008 by just 1,766 votes.

That’s a point seemingly lost on the Right these days. As much as I hated nearly every day of the Bush presidency, I don’t remember overt or coded language inciting armed revolution, particularly from Democratic party leaders. Did I want a revolution after the Iraq invasion? Or after Cheney exempted oil & gas companies from the Clean Water Act? Or after the CIA tortured innocent people? On and on and on…? Of course not. What kind of American has so little respect for or Democratic institutions and representative democracy that he bails over disagreement in policy? Well, after the last 18 months of observation, I’m pretty sure that person tends to be an asshole hiding behind a flag and vague taglines involving the word ‘freedom.’ Someone like Rick Barber.

When I spoke by phone with Barber, he was affably extreme, calling “most of our major departments” — he mentioned Education and Energy — unconstitutional and suggesting that Social Security is as well because it is not among Congress’s enumerated powers. “I don’t believe that it’s the government’s job to provide retirement for the nation,” he said.

As to the video, Barber was unapologetic. “We can’t be so naive to think that just because we live in America that can’t happen to us,” he said. “We are being fed a socialist agenda spoon by spoon, and we don’t see it coming. In Germany, when Hitler was first elected under the Socialist Party, no one would have thought in a million years it would have gone where it did.”

I would not have thought in a million years that this kind of thinking would be inside the conservative mainstream. If it is not, it is time for rational conservatives to speak up.

And there it is. We’ve got Hitler! Rick Barber – you win today’s edition of Crazy Time Alabama Primary Ads.

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Strike The Match

Posted by Matt on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Happy 4th, Senator!!!

The GOP shut down Senator Murray’s bill to expand aid to Homeless Veterans and the families. They’re all heart.

S.1237 - Homeless Veterans and Other Veterans Health Care Authorities Act of 2010

A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the grant program for homeless veterans with special needs to include male homeless veterans with minor dependents and to establish a grant program for reintegration of homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children, and for other purposes

Done with the “War For Terrific Corporate Profits/on Terror?” Well, thanks. Now go fuck yourself and your PTSD. Stay off our public sidewalks or Bill O’Reilley and The Ghost of Ayn Rand and will kick you in the shin.

Appreciation can be directed to Sens. Mitch McConnell & Tom Coburn.

Tonight, up to 200,000 American veterans will be homeless.

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The Pump Don’t Work ‘Cuz The Vandals Took The Handles

Posted by Matt on Saturday, June 26th, 2010

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Gratuitous World Cup (Group B)

Posted by Matt on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

(See Group A here.)

Soccer is like dry-humping: It’s usually boring, low-scoring and uncomfortable, but some assholes really like it. We continue with a pretty hard-hitting group.

easy, guapo.

1. Argentina: Originating in the lower-class districts of Buenos Aires, the tango is a dance that really gets it done. Like much of Argentine culture, the original dance was heavily influenced by dirty Europeans. The pure and very typical part of the Argentine tango is the very rich footwork and legwork. As rhythmic movements and games, like marking the rhythm by heeltaps, a very old way to dance Tango, such as ganchos, sacadas, ochos, llevadas and voleos. This typical elements are just part of Argentine tango and differences it of each other dance world wide: a rich foot and leg work, dancing by using the legspace of the partner while keeping a constant embrace. No wonder these clowns can kick a ball.


Thanks, Greece

2. Greece: Back in the day, the Greeks developed philosophy, mathematics, poetry, and various other things that form the basis for our present world. Since then, it has been a steady decline downward. But thanks to Herodotus, the historical record is preserved, as well the high-minded achievements of the Ancient Greeks. Civilization may be considered a clear favorite by some. However, one can certainly remain skeptical of something that produced stuff like bull-fighting, bluetooth headsets, and the Real Housewives series.


3. Nigeria: The author of books such as Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe is amazing in his ability to relate village life in West Africa to “western” audiences.  One of my favorite authors, Achebe also gets points for criticizing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, noting Africans were portrayed in Conrad’s novel as savages with no language other than grunts and with no “other occupations besides merging into the evil forest or materializing out of it simply to plague Marlow.”  Good for you, Chinua. I don’t know about all that, but I certainly thought it was a painful snoozer. The horror.


Some Korean's 3rd Grade Math Test.

4. South Korea: According to Wikipedia, South Korea is ranked first in the world in the Digital Opportunity Index, and first among major economies in the Global Innovation Index. The Digital Media City in Seoul is the first high-tech complex in the world for digital technologies and a test-bed for new futuristic concepts such as ubiquitous computing. Now I don’t know what any of that really means, but one thing is certain: Education is a huge priority in South Korea. In the 2006 results of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, South Korea came first in problem solving, third in mathematics and eleventh in science. South Korea’s education system is technologically advanced and it is the world’s first country to bring high-speed fibre-optic broadband internet access to every primary and secondary school nation-wide. Using this infrastructure, the country has developed the first Digital Textbooks in the world, which will be distributed for free to every primary and secondary schools nation-wide by 2013. Good lord. Where you at America? Oh yeah, fighting 2 wars and your own shadow. In Korea, I guess the unpopular kids are forced to play soccer. Nerds!


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A Post About The Oil Spill

Posted by Matt on Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Self-proclaimed patriot Michelle Bachmann does not like the government’s tyrannical treatment of a British Oil Company.

“The president just called for creating a [BP escrow] fund that would be administered by outsiders, which would be more of a redistribution-of-wealth fund,” said Bachmann. “And now it appears like we’ll be looking at one more gateway for more government control, more money to government.”

Also, David Weigel reports that Bachmann also said: “They have to lift the liability cap. But if I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there — ‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest — they’ve got to be legitimate claims.”

Happy Wednesday

When it’s the parent trying to get health care for her child, or the misled homeowner signing the adjustable rate mortgage, it becomes all about ’personal responsibility’ and the ‘market.’  Basically, screw ‘em. Yet when it comes to the poor, vulnerable multi-national energy companies, the political elite (particularly on the Right) fall all over themselves trying to protect the precious and actual gate-keepers of 21st century America.  

What people like Rand Paul, Michelle Bachmann and John Boehner believe in is not a free-market, level playing field. They believe in a system where corporate powerhouses reap the rewards of capitalism without being on the hook for any of risks associated with their behavior (except for campaign donations). Consolidate money and power. Privatize the gains and Socialize the losses. It was exemplified first with bailout for Wall St and a watered-down reform bill that looks to be a half-ass attempt on behalf of both the White House and the majority of Congressional Dems. It’s further magnified by the GOP’s response to the oil spill.

Let’s address 2 things…

1.  The primary cause of the Gulf Oil Spill is BP, and BP alone (with assists from Transocean and Halliburton – they can really dish it).

Like the recent West Virginia mine collapse, this is a simple case or sacrificing safety to increase profit margin. That’s it. They knew about faulty equipment for weeks and chose not to do anything about it.  Additional safeguards were dismissed because of cost. “BP violated safety regulations and protocols when they removed some very heavy safety fluid from the drilling pipe, fluid which was supposed to prevent exactly what happened. The removal of that fluid caused the pressure blast that sank the Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 people.”

 According to a “60 Minutes” interview [38] with a survivor, part of the blowout preventer’s seal broke during an accident [39] weeks before the explosion. A Transocean supervisor, when told of the problem, said it was “no big deal,” and operations continued despite several such equipment problems. 

The rig worker also told “60 Minutes” that BP and Transocean managers had been jostling over who was in charge in the hours before the spill, disagreeing on how to seal the well. One expert told “60 Minutes” that BP’s method—faster, but riskier [39]—may have set the stage for the blowout.  Halliburton was the subcontractor handling the cementing process on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which it completed shortly before the explosion [40].

2.  The secondary cause of the oil spill is the 30 year destruction of our regulatory system, first accelerated by the Reagan administration and perfected by the last Bush administration.

Anyone who has read Thomas Frank’s The Wrecking Crew knows the horrific details about the Right’s defunding, destruction and/or co-opting of America’s once-strong regulatory system on behalf of various industry interests. These interests run counter to almost every American not connected to K-Street, or to the plutocrats currently in charge. An overview…

The great fear that hung over the business community in the 1970s was death by regulation, and the great goal of the conservative movement, as it rose to triumph in the 1980s, was to remove that threat–to keep OSHA, the EPA, and the FTC from choking off entrepreneurship with their infernal meddling in the marketplace.

Defunding those agencies was one way to stop the killer bureaucrats; another was to stuff them full of business-friendly personnel who would go easy on regulated. The signature conservative regulatory idea became “voluntary enforcement”, because everyone now knew that efficient markets regulated themselves. Bad practices or tainted products drove away consumers; therefore firms had an incentive to behave, an incentive far more powerful than some top-down scheme in which big brother told them what to do.

Whether people ever truly believed this nonsense or not, its application over the years makes up the basic story of conservative governance as I tell it in my book, The Wrecking Crew. This is the philosophy by which conservatives gutted the EPA and the Labor Department, turned over the Interior Department and the FDA to the industries they were supposed to regulate, let the CEO of Enron advise the vice president on energy policy, and generally came to regard business, not the public, as government’s “customer” (a word that crops up with disturbing frequency in conservative regulatory history).

This can be seen in the recent actions of the MMS…

But in a hearing last week, one MMS official said the agency left it to oil companies to certify [47] that blowout preventers were working properly. The official said the agency “‘highly encouraged,’ but did not require,” companies to have backup systems to trigger blowout preventers in case of an emergency,” according to The Wall Street Journal. That led to this gem of an exchange [47]:

“Highly encourage? How does that translate to enforcement?” Coast Guard Capt. Hung Nguyen, who is co-chairing the investigation, asked at the hearings.

There is no enforcement,” Mr. Saucier replied.

The MMS official also testified that in 2001, new rules were drafted to tighten monitoring of offshore drilling and lay out requirements for blowout preventers, but the rules were never approved by higher-ups in Washington [48].

The Minerals Management Service—an agency within the Department of the Interior—has a rather mixed record [49]. In 2008, the regulator was involved in a sex and drug scandal [50] with oil and gas company representatives. Since then, the agency has also been criticized for understating the risks of oil spills [51] in its plans to expand drilling off the coast of Alaska. A government investigation also concluded that an office at MMS withheld data on offshore drilling from environmental risk assessors in the agency [52].

 Idealistic notions about free market and deregulation all sound great in theory. And the GOP has spent decades hammering home the idea that the soul-less, nation-less market will take care of Americans, and government is only there to interfere and piss away the money of hard-working Americans.

While I acknowledge and detest government waste as much as the next guy, spending money on rebuilding our decrepit and outdated regulatory system is a necessity. We need more regulators, better regulators, and a divorce of government from industry in the regulatory context. Government should serve the public, not the multinationals.

Whether it’s a bridge collapse, e-coli outbreak, mine explosion, or whatever, it’s just a matter of time before the next ‘shocking’ tragedy occurs and can be traced back to a lapse in regulation. And when it happens, the politicians will all get up to holler indignantly about how the government failed to detect problem X.  Then they’ll sit back down and count the checks from whatever industry moneychanger that is funding the next campaign.  That’s too bad.

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Gratuitous World Cup

Posted by Matt on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

The World’s greatest sporting event has it all:  Scoreless Ties, Constant Flopping, Incessant Horns. Back and forth, round and round…for hours. It’s like NASCAR, but with more fan deaths and nativism.

Every 4 years, this event comes around, each time interpreted by some idiot fans as a sort of battle for world supremacy. Nothing like an over-hyped soccer event to make me find common ground with Glenn Beck.  Can’t we settle all these arguments in a simpler manner?

We can find 2010′s greatest country without having to watch 2 hours of not scoring. To keep it simple, I’ve picked one thing to represent each participant. Pick your favorite in the poll (here). 2 will advance from each Group. I believe this event goes on until November, so we have plenty of time.  We’ll start with Group A…



1. France: Rich with history and culture, France tries hard to be a prolific global influence, while often concurrently being a pain in ass.  That aside, the case for France can be made by pointing to  Élysée Palace, and Carla Bruni, the world’s most smokin’ first lady. While other first wives/queens, such as Syria’s Asma al-Assad, look great patrolling the world’s most exclusive dinner parties, Bruni is something else.  As a young model and aspiring musician, she was imported from Italy to various places in order service the needs of aging rocks stars such as Mick Jagger. In 2008, she married French President Nicolas Sarkozy, an incredible coup for a country who many think has seen its glory days.


2. Mexico: Like France, Mexico has a storied history,and rich culture. Specifically, Mexican cuisine is hard to top. While I enjoy burritos, enchiladas, tamales, mole dishes, serrano peppers etc., it’s the ubiquitous Taco representing Mexico in the Gratuitous World Cup.  Tacos are versatile, and can be the canvas for pretty much any ingredient you wish to project.  Personally, a solid fish taco is one of the tastiest meals around. Maybe I’m just a simple man. Or maybe tacos are just that good. Viva Mexico!



3. South Africa: South Africa does not have quite the same cultural history of France or Mexico. In fact, the Far Right government was able to maintain much of Apartheid’s legacy by trading racist policy for Libertarian policy sometime in the early 1990s. Combine that with AIDS-deniers like former president Thabo Mbeki, and the World Cup visitors will still get to see miles and miles of impoverished tenement communities. RSA! RSA!  Alas, it ain’t all bad.  Cape Town is truly one of the world’s coolest cities and South Africa has some fairly varied ecosystems. You know what they have ? Penguins! And while the cute smelly waddlers may not be the most representative creature of the country, it’s pretty amazing they have maintained on the bottom coast of a damn hot continent. The species “native” to Southern Africa is the Jackass Penguin, which would also be an appropriate mascot for most soccer hooligans.


4. Uruguay: Uruguay is a fairly unique South American country in that its comprised almost exclusively of people with varied European descents.  An agriculture-driven country, in 2007, it became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex and different-sex civil unions at a national level. Thus, it may be no surprise that Uruguay is regarded by some as the most secular country in the Americas. Secularism is part of Uruguay’s fabric, and while 66% of the country identify themselves as Catholics, church and state remain separate while Religious freedom is guaranteed. Uruguay has one of the highest ‘qualities of life’ in South America.

Vote here and stay tuned for Group B.

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Don’t Touch Me, I’m Bloated

Posted by Matt on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

3 truths about current-day American politics:

1.  America shall never look inward with regard to the notion that our actions (imperialist or otherwise) can have an effect on violence perpetrated by Muslim extremists. We merely standby helpless to alter the course of history.

2. Despite billions in military aid, you are never to question, much less criticize, an action undertaken by Israel, even if it undermines American intersts, security, or the well-being of American troops. Why do you hate our ally?

3. When grandstanding about America’s fiscal austerity, politicians shall never talk about cutting defense spending.  Who cares if 1 in 4 American $ goes to defense, including bullshit programs like the V-22 Osprey? Do you want to die?

It’s the 3rd of these hard n’ fast rules that Dan Froomkin addressed yesterday.

 When you think about ways to tame the nation’s long-term deficit, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Slashing benefits for the old and sick? Or taking a few whacks at the spectacularly bloated defense budget?

The former option has, somehow, become the default position for Washington’s ruling class, including President Obama’s deficit commission.

But in April, a bipartisan group of iconoclasts in Congress led by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) formed their own task force to examine the latter possibility. The group of defense experts released their report on Friday, identifying nearly $1 trillion in defense budget cuts over the next 10 years that could contribute to deficit reduction “while not compromising the essential security of the United States.”

Among the possible reductions cited in the report:

• Over $113 billion in savings by reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal to 1,050 total warheads deployed on 450 land-based missiles and seven Ohio-class submarines;• Over $200 billion in savings by reducing U.S. routine military presence in Europe and Asia to 100,000 while reducing total uniformed military personnel to 1.3 million;

• Over $138 billion in savings by replacing costly and unworkable weapons systems with more practical, affordable alternatives. Suggested cuts would include the F-35 combat aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey, and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

• Over $60 billion in savings by reforming military health care; and

• Over $100 billion in savings by cutting unnecessary command, support and infrastructure funding.

Deficit hawkery appears to be overwhelming official Washington, despite the fact that the lackluster economy is sending clear signals even to the likes of non-radical Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the last thing the nation needs right now is government spending cuts.

Even so, the defense budget seems off limits. Despite some lip service from the deficit commission, there is no serious indication that the requisite 14 of the group’s 18 members will agree on anything that would involve defense cuts.

Even President Obama’s proposed freeze on discretionary spending explicitly rules out any defense cuts.

By contrast, the deficit commission seems to be drawing a bead on the social safety net in general, and Social Security in particular.

Personally, I defer to the historical record that the lingering economic crisis points to the fact that the initial stimulus was not big enough, and failing to invest more government money to create jobs will result in more damage than deficit spending. However, that’s a discussion for a different day.

The fact is, despite pandering by the President, Blue Dogs, and virtually every Republican, it’s hard to believe  any party’s genuine sincerity about deficit reduction when the bloated defense budget is not to be touched. 

Cha -ching.

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Ain’t That America: Sex & The City 2

Posted by Matt on Thursday, June 10th, 2010

We're so relatable because everyone likes to have sex!!

Apparently, Sex & the City 2: Abu Dhaaaahbi is a (SPOILER) cinematic abomination. And not a quick one, either. It runs 150 minutes. 150!  And to some, the length isn’t the most offensive part. Believe it or not, it’s a little tone def in its portrayal of cultures different from it insular core of vapid, neurotic Manhattan pseudo-Cougars. 

Wajahat Ali (Salon):

Our four female cultural avatars, like imperialistic Barbies, milk Abu Dhabi for leisure and hedonism without making any discernible, concrete efforts to learn about her people and their daily lives. An exception is Miranda, whose IQ drops about 100 points as she dilutes the vast complexities of a diverse culture into sound bites like this: “‘Hanh Gee’ means ‘yes’ in Arabic!”

Only it doesn’t — it’s Hindi and Punjabi, which is spoken by South Asians.

CUT TO: Samantha blowing a Chinese migrant worker. “hanh gee! hanh gee!”  (She’s the uninhibited one!)

She also incorrectly tells the audience that all women in the Middle East have to cover themselves. And, yes, nearly every single Middle Eastern female character in “SATC 2′s” imaginative rendition of “Abu Dhabi,” is veiled, silent or subdued by aggressive men.


If our cultural ambassadors truly cared about saving Muslim women, they surely would try to help them during the film’s interminable two and half hour running time, no? Sadly, instead, these incredibly shallow mock-feminists can’t even bother to have one decent conversation with a Muslim woman, because they’re too immersed in picnics on the desert and singing Arab disco karaoke renditions of “I Am Woman.” In fact, Abu Dhabi is just peachy when it’s a fantasy land where they ride around in limos and get comped an extravagantly vulgar $22,000 hotel suite. However, only when that materialism is taken away do they worry, in only the most superficial way, about sexual hypocrisy and women’s oppression.

Meanwhile, the perpetually self-absorbed Carrie finds enlightenment in the simple, wise words of her Indian manservant Gaurav, who functions as the movie’s life-changing, magical minority. And Samantha, our “Western” avatar of freedom and liberation, offers a juxtaposition to the silent, oppressed Muslim women by making immature puns like “Lawrence of my Labia” and performing fellatio on a sheesha pipe in public.

The movie uses only two broad colors to paint the Middle East: One depicting an opulent Eden for our blissfully ignorant protagonists to selfishly use as a temporary escape, and the other showing an oppressive dungeon populated by intolerant men that cannot comprehend cleavage or bare shoulders.

OK, a bubble gum approach to reality is to be expected from “SATC2.” And one could imagine a scenario in which the frothy light comedy could be used to erase mutual misunderstandings. After all, Muslim women around the world, who religiously watched the show, would love a strong, empowered Muslim female “SATC” character who could enlighten Western audiences about the complex, and at times oppressive, reality of Middle Eastern women while simultaneously rocking Ferragamos. Instead, the film exists in a wacky cultural vacuum blissfully unaware of its own arrogance and prejudices. 

Apparently, we’re meant to believe Muslim women in the Middle East are equally self-absorbed, vain and materialistic. After completely dissing the Middle East, its people, its religion and its culture, it’s “Sex and the City” that truly insults the Muslim women, by silencing them entirely.

Well…if American audiences respond to anything, it’s franchise sequels overflowing with redundant clichés and painfully familiar characters (caricatures). So the movie obviously made over $50 million in the opening week, thus paving the way for (you guessed it) the probable making of 3rd eye-gouging disaster.  I’m offering these ideas for the worn formula…

Sex & the City 3: ‘Eskihos!’ Obsessed with her aging uterus, Charlotte is puffed to the gills with fertility treatment by an experimental therapist in Fairbanks. She pops out some octuplets. After purchasing over-priced designer booties and mittens for the kids, Miranda’s new boyfriend sits the little ones on top of 8 huskies for the annual Iditarod. In a Disney-esque turn of events, they’re like little jockeys, and only one loses a foot!!!  Meanwhile, Samantha starts fucking a fish monger. “It wasn’ t just noses we were rubbing” is a line for the trailer. She’s such a slut! hilarious!

Sex & the City 3: ’Deeper South’ After losing a bet with one of her embarrassingly effeminate male friends, Carrie finds herself at the Old Plantation home of one of her distant cousins. As she tries to acclimate herself to the day-to-day life on the farm (while wearing 6-in heels), hilarity ensues. Meanwhile, Miranda says something snarky about the South. Samantha starts fucking a black farm hand, and the offensive cultural ignorance keeps on rolling.  “Let’s just say he showed me his ‘Kunta Kinte,’ y’all!” That means his ‘penis’! And it’s also a reference to centuries of human bondage!  But who cares because she’s sleeps with so many men! Her vagina is soooo worn. Haha!

Sex & the City 3: ‘Sex-ico’  Ola’, Senoritas.  Miranda gets sent to Mexico by her law firm in order to mitigate damages suffered by workers injured in a chemical plant explosion. The rest of the girls are coming with. Hey-o!!! Charlotte gets roped into a Santa Muerte ceremony and loses her shit when an old woman smears rooster blood on her forehead. “These poor people are savages. Senor, una paloma mas, por favor…”  Meanwhile, Carrie narrates inapplicable life lessons in her annoying flinty voice and Samantha just wants to fuck. “He can mow my lawn any day…” Holy shit! Can’t you just say you want to have sex with him?!  How many entendres are too many???

So there it is. If anyone has seen this film, feel free to weigh in. I’m taking Mr. Ali’s advice and staying far far away.

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Gratuitous World Blog

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      January 7, 2014

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