Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cell Phone Companies are Jerks

So it turns out in addition to locking you into two-year contracts with spotty service, and giving you the crappiest free phones, the cell phone companies are also screwing you on text messages. It turns out it costs them near to nothing to increase the number of text messages transmitted, it's one of those things that once the infrastructure is installed everything is just escalating profit. I've had all of the Big 3 cell phone services first with Verizon (which when I first had it was called AirTouch) then on to Sprint and finally now AT&T. And they are all just as evil as the other. Verizon had the worst customer service both in store and on the phone, plus despite their claims of excellent coverage had huge drop zones in Eagle Rock and charged for roaming. So I switched to Sprint, since it had the nationwide plan and because it allowed you to call for the number of minutes left in the month. I liked Sprint except for the fact that its drop zone was in Whittier. And finally, now with AT&T I've had less complaints about the service, and more about the crappy slider phone I have which has been replaced three times. Add to that, the fact that AT&T will not upgrade me to an iPhone even though they only make about $20/month off me now and that would increase to almost $100/month with the iPhone. The funny thing was that when the iPhone 3G was about to come out and everyone was scared it was going to be a flop, their website said I could upgrade as of October 2008.

Either way cell phone companies have joined the ranks of cable/satellite television as one of the last great legal rackets around. I just wish there was more the average consumer could do about it to really stick it to them. As of now my only option is going off the grid, something I plan on doing at some point, but for now I'll just suffer through.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Unions and the Unemployable

The Senate did not pass a bailout plan for the Big 3 automakers. Senate Republicans who forced its failure are blaming the U.A.W. for its unwillingness to concede on wage agreements. The U.A.W. head stated that he didn't believe the Senate Republicans were serious in their offer to the union for a seat at the table. Apparently, the argument came down to 365 days. The Reps wanted the wages at the Big 3 to decrease to the level of other foreign plants located in the U.S. by 2009, the U.A.W. wanted to hold out until 2010 when their contract will be up for re-negotiation. I know that it's always difficult to come to a compromise, but when the Titanic is sinking, is it really the time to argue about whether we should put on life vests? I'm just saying, it doesn't sound like either side really wanted the bailout to succeed.

And apparently even little Richie Rich and Spending Sally are being hit hard by the economic downturn as their allowances get smaller. They're trying to join the workforce to keep up their take-out sushi and Louis Vuitton habits. Being someone who has worked since age 15, I don't feel very sympathetic for these whiny wimps. I feel that everyone should at least work at some point during high school and at the very least college. Believe it or not there are people who get to grad school and have never held down a regular job, and trust me folks it isn't pretty. My mom always said that she would buy whatever car I wanted if I just worked one summer picking strawberries. I took one look, and thought how hot it must be and back breaking the work, and said nahh...I'll take the Corolla. But at least I didn't complain when I was at work in the nice air-conditioned city library.

It's starting to get to that time of year when the number of parties exceed the number of hours in a day I have to sleep, eat, and blog. I apologize in advance if my postings aren't as frequent.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mobsters need to school Politicians

The latest in a series of arrests is Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, who was taken into custody and charged with corruption along with his chief of staff. The political genius apparently didn't lean from the previous Illinois Governor who was charged with racketeering. This is just one in a string of recent convictions topped by former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. All of these guys need some ethic training, or at the very least should invest in netflixing (is that a word?) the Sopranos. Tony Soprano would never make the mistake of using a phone to make illegal deals, especially when the heat is on. That's the best part of this story, Blagojevich knew he had been under investigation for quite sometime and he still had the nerve (stupidity?) to try and make himself a sweet deal in exchange for Obama's Senate seat. Hmm...maybe the Sopranos should've relocated from New Jersey to Illinois, I'm sure the Governor would have been willing to appoint anyone for the right price, even a suspected mobster!

At the same time, another sketchy politician finds himself out of a job. William Jefferson, the U.S. Representative from Louisiana, lost to Joe Cao, a Republican newcomer and Vietnamese immigrant. Representative-elect Cao will be the first Vietnamese member in Congress after taking down Jefferson, who was recently found to have $90,000 in unaccounted cash in his freezer. I like Cao's resume, as he was a Jesuit seminarian (the smartest of the Catholics) and only recently switched to the GOP after being registered as a independent. I think he's just what the doctor ordered for scandal ridden, hurricane beaten New Orleans. Here's to hoping!

Friday, December 5, 2008

December 5th- a day to celebrate!

Happy Repeal Day! 75 years ago today the 21st amendment was ratified by the necessary 36 states (actually 38 said yes) to end nationwide prohibition. Although, some states kept up their dry status (like Kansas where you couldn't buy a drink at a bar until 1986) it was no longer a federal offense. I am very proud to live in a State/County with a very liberal alcohol sale policy. Although sales end at 2:00 am, I can purchase my booze of choice at the local CVS, Target (beer/wine only), and most importantly COSTCO! Not all Americans share this lucky status, for example when I lived in Virginia I had to purchase all hard alcohol at a Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control store, it was a very weird experience. Plus, in D.C. liquor stores that sell hard alcohol close on Sunday (hello ever heard of separation of church and state?).
In celebration, I will be toasting to the Constitution and the end of bootlegging, although I admit it must have been cool to go to a real speakeasy.

Also in the news is the original Juice, O.J. Simpson who was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison. He was actually found guilty on October 13th, 13 years to the date that he was found not-guilty in the murder trial of his wife and her friend. I guess the saying what goes around comes around really is true. He should have known better not to do anything crazy, now that his trusty lawyer Johnnie Cochran (may he RIP) is not around to defend him.

And this Saturday marks two awesome sporting events and rivalries. At noon you have the UCLA Bruins vs. the USC Trojans in what some are predicting will be a bloodbath. Although I believe in "Fight On!" I was also there in 2006, when the Trojans lost hard mainly because they let the Bruins win. I suggest avoiding Old Town Pasadena unless you enjoy risky behavior such as stabbings, shootings and bar fights. Then at 6pm the fight is on between DeLaHoya and Pacquiao or as some are bidding it Mexico vs. the Philippines. Again a word to the wise, avoid crowded bars in Whittier/Cerritos as there are bound to be some brawls. Boxing matches hold a distinct place in the memory of my childhood, as being the most fun events (other than the SuperBowl), but now with the disappearance of black boxes, my next question is who's paying the $64 to watch it?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I'll have a Caucasian

Many of you may know that this request is not in reference to a person of European descent, but is a nickname for the Dude's favorite drink a White Russian. As to who is the Dude, well he's only one of the coolest semi-fictitious individuals of all times and the lead character in one of my all-time favorite movies the Big Lebowski.

He drinks White Russians throughout the whole movie and just today more than 10 years after the movie was released the drink has made a comeback according to an article in the NYTimes. It also mentions these Big Lebowski meetups that seem similar to Star Trek conventions, except with less nerds and more bowlers.

There are too many gems of wisdom to be gleaned from this movie but here are a few of my favorites:

1. Chinaman is not the proper nomenclature, its Asian-American.
2. You do not answer a phone on shabbos, do not work, get in a car and for sure do not roll on Shomar shobbas!
3. Being a nihilist, that must be exhausting.
4. You're out of your element, the world does not start and stop with you.
5. I can get you a toe by three o'clock with nail polish, amateurs.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A New Format

I was thinking that maybe I should try and start a new format for blogging rather than the long, narrative format in paragraphs. So here we go, and please feel free to chime in with your comments/opinions.

For those of you who are avid listeners of Kevin & Bean on KROQ, what are your thoughts about the new format, with it ending an hour earlier and having a separate hour at 5pm? I personally hate it, because I enjoy getting to work and having K&B on until 10am, plus I'm not in the car at 5pm, so I often miss their afternoon session. I think this is a cheap ploy for KROQ to increase the number of afternoon listeners. I suggest they just get a better on-air personality than Jed the Fish and problem will be solved.

I recently took 1 1/2 hours out of my life to watch Redemption the 24 special. Was it me or was it horribly written? I could literally guess what was going to be said next. I had also hoped that Jack's do-gooder friend in Sengala would join him on a mission of sorts so we could have 2 Jack Bauers, but unfortunately they decided to kill him off. Finally, the special lacked any CTU info which is the best part of the entire show. I hope Fox gets its act together prior to January, especially after making me wait a whole another year (due to Kiefer's DUI and the writer's strike).

Tonight my all-time favorite Christmas movie will be on, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Although both the Abominable Snowman and the land of toy misfits scared me, I think I seriously gained much of my love for dentists from this movie.

The only movie I loved more was Alice in Wonderland live action film from 1985 that included such famous stars as Carol Channing, Linda Ronstadt, and Sammy Davis Jr. Not anyone a 4 year old should recognize, but that's how only children are. Check it out below:

Sorry for subjecting you to my two favorite movies that are both kind of scary, but at least I didn't love Willow like my bearded friend!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another Touchy Subject

It's rare that I read an article and feel even more perplexed than before I read it. This typically happens when the answer as to what is right or wrong does not immediately pop out, such as in this article published in the NY Times magazine called "Her Body, My Baby". After reading this woman's trials and tribulations in becoming a mother through a surrogate, I couldn't decide how I felt about the situation. Maybe it is not necessary for me to feel any one way, since it doesn't have to do with me, but I encourage others to read it and see how they feel. I especially recommend perusing the over 400 comments, that can be very harsh if you want a dose of what other opinionated folks think out there. At the very least, check out the pictures attached to the article, in which the surrogate mother is pictured very pregnant a week before giving birth on a porch with no shoes and her dog, contrasted with the author holding her child with a nurse maid standing behind her, arms behind her back. I thought it was particularly interesting that it was the surrogate's 2nd pregnancy for another couple and that her own daughter had donated eggs to pay for college, so the level of normalcy and acceptance was unusual. I published a previous post about the decision of motherhood that faces the majority of women, and my apprehension regarding the subject. I guess it's just one of those things that you never know how you'll feel until it is actually happening. That's all for now, folks, I promise to find a more juicy news piece for tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

They're here!

The holidays and U.S. recession have both officially arrived. Both of these should come as no surprise seeing as Christmas decorations have been up at Macy’s since Halloween and the Dow looks like some scary roller coaster design from Six Flags. Believe it or not, I’m starting to feel like I’m ready for both of these events, but for different reasons.

The holidays are only as stressful as you allow them to be. I know that visiting the family can be trying at times, but remember this is the time when you get the 411 on all the juicy family gossip and are fed for free at the same. I’ve already managed to turn this past long weekend into money saved on groceries and time saved on cooking by making sure to eat at least 3 meals with the family. The majority of stress usually comes from having to decide what to buy everyone. Problem is inherently solved after a few clicks on Amazon, Overstock or Target. Just enter that person’s favorite movie, music, book, food, etc. and there will be matches galore. Plus, most of these sites are offering free shipping which will save you the headache of the mall. Next, instead of spending a lot of time and money decorating I suggest just picking one thing you want to put up whether it be the tree or the wreath or the lights or a poinsettia, all you really need is one of those to look festive. Finally, don’t forget to splurge on yourself and take the time you need to be in a good mood come the big day, because who wants to end 2008 tired and bitter? Remember after Christmas you have less than one week to start thinking about next year’s resolutions.

As for the recession, my generation has little to worry about, especially if you are currently employed. The recession will have little long term effect on our 401Ks and IRA accounts, plus it puts us in a unique position to be making decent returns when the upturn begins. Invest in solid companies now, and avoid loans/credit cards like the plague (with the exception of educational loans). The time to buy some real estate is almost upon us, so SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!

2008 is a year plagued by bad news from the economy to the world, with 2009 on the horizon it feels like we’ll need to trade in our fear for a good dose of hope and trust in a silver lining. Until then, I will enjoy my 24 hour Christmas carol radio station as I sit in my office watching the sun set on another 77 degree California winter day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cars, Suits & Salaries

Now that the election is over it seems the news has returned with many things of interest, let's start with the Big 3.

I'm talking about America's long troubled car manufacturers and their need for a government bailout. Here's one place where I think EVERYONE should turn a cold shoulder to their pleas for help and here's why. First, it is a rare situation where both the company and their employees are to blame, but this is the case here. The companies have refused to innovate and change to accommodate the changing market of better fuel efficiency, smaller vehicles and hybrid technology. If you'd believe it some of the first mass produced electric cars were made by GM and systematically killed off by the company one by one. If you don't believe me rent "Who killed the electric car". Add on top of that their need to build bigger SUVs, trucks and just plain UGLY cars and there's no wonder why sales are down. As for the employees, the United Auto Workers and other automotive unions has basically made it impossible for these companies to change their employment practices to adapt to their losing market share. Auto workers pay no deductible or copay for their health plans, and even in the face of total market meltdown, union leaders refuse to budge.

The second piece of news is the fact that over a half a million people applied for unemployment LAST WEEK! And as a result, the need for the "interview suit" is on the rise. Check out the article in the NYtimes about what works in 2008 as you head to your interviews. I personally am not a fan of suits. I find them quite constricting, but I do believe it is one piece that should never be skimped on. No suits from Target! Outlets and sales are the best places to find designer brands at good prices, plus never underestimate the use of a good tailor!

Finally, one of my favorite subjects- public education- is back in the news. Washington D.C. public school's 38 year old chancellor has proposed giving huge bonuses and salary raises for teachers if they agree to giving up some of their hold on tenure. Salaries could more than double, giving teachers 6 figures! Believe it or not for all the complaints about not being paid enough and not being able to recruit good teachers because of pay, this plan is being rejected in favor of the assurance that they will not be fired. If you think that tenure isn't such a bad thing, ask students about their teachers in schools no one wants to work at- typically low-performing, extremely large (pop. over 3,000 students), structurally unsound, and in crime-ridden neighborhoods- about the quality of the education they receive on a daily basis. Many of these teachers exist because of tenure, they were discarded by other, better schools and since they cannot be fired they end up living out their days until retirement- meanwhile the graduation rate of LAUSD hovers at around 50%. Or just ask my bearded friend he knows all to well about the havoc tenure creates.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I heart Facebook

I'm a frequent Facebook user, making the full shift from MySpace to Facebook after starting graduate school and realizing no one over 25 has a MySpace page. Plus, Facebook makes MySpace appearance-wise look like The Hilton vs. one of those Downtown by the hour hotels. There is just too much junk on it.

At first, my profile was so well hidden by privacy controls that it was almost impossible to find me unless you were in my graduate program. But after awhile I added some undergrad and high school friends and now it feels like a virtual reunion! It has started to make me think about all the things "social networking" sites has done away with:

1. Reunions: No need to go and suffer through a 3 hour meet-up with your old classmates, now you can make them your friend on Facebook and either just read their profiles to get the update or make plans one-on-one to hang out. I am really glad that I will no longer have to feel guilty about NOT planning my high school class 10 year reunion.

2. Blind dates: There is no need to ever go on a "true" blind date. As long as you have a first name and a city or a first and last name you can Google, LinkedIn or Facebook your way to knowing all the necessary information about this mystery date. Especially the important stuff like what kind of music they like and who has been giving them "gifts" lately.

3. Emails: Now this is the aspect I had not anticipated. Prior to Facebook, I used to actually take the time to write detailed emails to my faraway friends now you can just post something on their wall and you're done.

4. Belated Birthday cards/apologies: Everyone's birthday is plainly listed on their page and you even get a reminder a few days in advance.

5. Embarrassing conversation: Thanks to Facebook I can easily look someone's political or religious affiliation, check to see if they're still dating so and so, and make sure not to forget when they were at an event, because all the info is right there! Thankfully this will prevent me from congratulating a McCain supporter on Tuesday's win, stopping me from asking about someone's gf when they are now listed as "single" and never have to ask...You were there at the party, right?

Oh the internet, how I heart thee. Even more than when all you did was get me in trouble for being up late at night in chat rooms on AOL.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I don't know if there is anything other to say than that little 3 letter word. My emotions are on a roller coaster. Will I remember this moment forever? Or is it a passing thing? I almost feel like my political psyche was too damaged during the 2000 election to really "believe in the process." But I'm also happy that there are no questions about the outcome, it is done. Everyone will just have to wake up tomorrow and deal with it, in their own way.

So here are all the favors I've called in:

PA- Thank you for staying blue. Next year it is ON in the NL! Dodgers are coming back and fierce, but at least you came up in the clutch.

FL- Also thank you for deciding to go blue. I'm thinking that you should be able to come back strong with the Rays next year.

St. Jude (patron saint of the impossible)- Thanks, next time in Baltimore I'll stop by your patron church and say hi.

OH- I don't know if us beating you up in football could be considered a peace offering, but thanks for also coming up. Maybe we can play in the BCS?

Alright, that's all for now. I still have CA to worry about and I guess I'll either wake up to more good news or have to join the ACLU to contribute to fight two props I am very troubled by.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And I'm back.

I apologize to my loyal readers for the brief pause in posting, my real life caught up with me. Needless to say there have been a ton of happenings that warrant some mention here so I will get underway.

First, the World Series has turned into a PR disaster. The MLB was already in trouble considering how few people cared to see the Tampa Bay Rays vs. the Phillies, but add on to that the horrible weather in Philly and the lack of oomph in hitting, and we can all admit it is a snoozer. I don’t understand what possessed them to continue with a game they knew was going to be inevitably rain delayed. Now we’ve waited two days to start a game tied in the 6th inning. What is even sadder is if the Phillies win this 3 inning game they will be crowned World Series champions in a very anti-climatic fashion. This is why only teams that can guarantee good weather (such as LA) should be allowed to play into October.

Second, the Presidential election is now in its final days and just in time for the death rattle we have a few new and fun stories. First, the cost of Palin’s wardrobe dominating the news has been fairly ridiculous. What did you want her to wear? Clothes she bought at the Wasilla Wal-Mart? Everyone should know by now that if you want to look good on TV it is going to cost money. The GOP is lucky Palin is already so attractive because with most female politicians there would be extensive re-work needed of hair and makeup. Second, the McCain aides vs. Palin aides throwing the mud back and forth behind the cover of anonymity. I think this was inevitable given the two personalities. McCain is old and likes to be revered. Palin is young and doesn’t apologize for her inadequacies. Her lack of deference was bound to cause some waves. But then again McCain doesn’t have much room for finger-pointing, he asked her to be on the ticket not the other way around. Finally, NPR has been doing a fascinating series on the importance of race in this election, if you have some time please listen. There is one woman who is concerned about being pushed off the sidewalk if Obama wins- no joke.

Third, for those of us in California we cannot turn on a radio/TV without hearing a commercial for one of the 12 propositions on the ballot. Add to that Measure R in LA County and you have up to 26 different versions of which side is the “Devil” and all the horrible things that will happen if you don’t vote one way or the other. Here are a few examples:
1. If we don’t pass Prop 8, pre-schoolers will not read The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar and instead be forced to read The Two Gay Princes who lived happily ever after.
2. If we don’t pass Prop. 4, you’re allowing statutory rape to go unpunished!
3. If you vote yes on Prop. 5, drug dealers will run rampant, and judges will be forced to hear multiple hearings on the same case rather than just sending everyone to prison.
4. If you vote yes on Prop. 10, we will live in a sunshine-filled, smog-free world, because we’ll have rebates to buy hybrids.
5. If you vote yes or no on Prop. 2, you’re somehow hurting animals and threatening California’s ability to produce eggs either way.

This is why I recommend everyone go to smartvoter.org and read about the Props and the candidates to make their own informed decision on 11/04. As for me I’m just trying to keep my head above water until this is all over.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And like that "Poof!". It was Over.

So it’s over and to make a long story short, I’m a little bit glad. I don’t know if my liver/brain/heart could take another series, between the drinking/stress/rapid emotional swings. It is time to move on, focus on College Football and the NFL and watch what messes GM Ned Coletti makes in the offseason. The problem will be money of course and in the Dodgers’ case lack thereof. What I can’t believe is that the Dodgers have $61 million currently wrapped up in 4 players, only 2 of which even play. Schmidt and Jones have taken their payday and retired to sunnier places. Kuroda and Pierre are definitely still useful even though their best days may be behind them. As for who they should keep I think Furcal is not a bad idea as long as they don’t pay too much for him, considering the injuries over the past 2 years. As much as I hate to say it, I feel like my brother from Whittier has hit the time in his career to go home to Mia and the twins in Manhattan Beach and spend the next few years trying to figure out where he wants to be an assistant coach. As for Kent and Maddux, I’m sure both of them will be just as happy spending more time with their family and showing up for their Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

Now looking forward. What do the Dodgers need?

1. Starting pitchers: Although Chad didn’t have his best days in the postseason, the kid can still pitch and his youth is definitely an advantage. Add to that the wunderkind, Kershaw, and the Dodgers have two. With Kuroda that makes 3, as long as he doesn’t have too many starts. But we need 2 more to round it out, since Penny is done and D. Lowe will probably go elsewhere.
2. Another closer: We need more than just Broxton to come in and shut it down. I don’t think Saito’s chances of coming back are very good. Maybe this McDonald kid can be the new Gagne.
3. A slugger: I don’t care what position he plays, but it is necessary. I don’t know if we should shell out all of our money for Manny. In the end I wouldn’t say it was the worst move, I’m just a bit worried given the Dodgers’ history of paying a lot of money for players in their sunshine years.
4. A decent pitch hitter: I CANNOT sit through another season with Mark Sweeney.

I think our infield is fine, considering DeWitt, Loney and Berroa are all good defensive players, with J. Lo being the only one who came through consistently in the postseason. I’ll cut DeWitt some slack given its his first Major League season. But Ethier and Kemp both better step it up. Get it together boys! Oh and I forgot to mention Martin, I suggest Torre forcing him to dump Alyssa Milano (eww Penny’s sloppy seconds) and work on his anger management skills.

Well that’s all for Dodger baseball this year, time to start counting down to Spring Training. Anyone up for a road trip to Arizona in March?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Salt in an Open Wound

Even though I should probably save myself the heartache of watching the Dodgers try to win tonight, it will pain me as much not to see this group of guys play once more together at Dodger Stadium. The majority of my head knows there is almost no chance that the Dodgers will be able to overcome the 3-1 game deficit, but there's also a small part of my heart that believes the magic that was Kirk Gibson's homer in Game 1 of the World Series exactly 20 years ago to the day might lead the Dodgers to another miracle tonight.

Either way, its been a good run considering and I really shouldn't be as bummed out as I feel. I'm just hoping that tonight Torre takes it easy on the pitching staff, limiting changes to absolute necessities, that Chad can pull out one of his 2 hit winners, and the rest of the boys aren't too demoralized not to hit a few out of the park for old times sake.

If this is the end, then I must say Go Rays!, because who wants the Red Sox (aka the New Yankees) to win? I will offer this one trade to those Phillies' fan out there: 1 NLCS championship for electoral votes in November? I think the candidates should consider it, especially since I'm pretty sure their last debate will be a snoozer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two Things To Celebrate

In case some of you were too busy yesterday doing Sunday chores/errands and missed the grand game that was the Dodgers vs. the Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS. Here's a brief recap: 1st inning: Dodgers make 5 runs primarily as a result of Rookie Blake DeWitt's triple, Philly Pitcher Jamie Moyer manages to hit Martin in the knee. 2nd inning: New pitcher for the Phillies barely misses hitting Martin again. 3rd inning: Hiro Kuroda of the Dodgers throws a high fast one sailing over Shane Victorino's head, who then grounds out and starts mouthing off after the 1st base out resulting in both benches being cleared and Manny running all the way from left field and having to be restrained by 3 players and a few coaches.

End result: Dodgers win 7-2. And we're ready to fight for the next 3 wins, and willing to take on any cheap shots from those no good Phillies. Now I know people from the East Coast think they're tougher than their West Coast counterparts. They think of us as spending our time doing yoga, drinking tea, and worrying about our tans. And that may be somewhat true, but we're brutal when put up to a fight, especially at Chavez Ravine with all the Raider fans who have nowhere to release their aggression on losing AGAIN this week.

I agree that Kuroda's pitch was dangerous, but the ball slipped (wink, wink) and it was about time the Phillies realize we're not about to take anymore cheap shots at Martin or Manny. There are too many good columns about yesterday's game, but my favorite is T.J. Simer's from the L.A. Times, check it out here.

My other celebration is for my favorite economist, Paul Krugman, who received the Nobel Prize in economics. He is such a great writer, making it easy for everyone to understand the inner workings of politics, public policy and economics. And his theory on international trade has real effects on how the global market is thought of throughout the field. Check out the article talking about why he received this award here and his fabulous column here.

And on a post note, congrats to the Rays with the 11th inning win on Saturday and today's butt kicking in Boston. Take that Red Sox. I wonder if they wished they had Manny being Manny right about now, but he's got our back NOW!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Maybe Direct Isn't Such a Good Idea

Most elections in California require voters not only to choose candidates, but to take positions on a number of propositions ranging in topics from farm animals to abortion. This November is no different, with 12 statewide measures on the ballot. I’ve always been curious as to how and why this form of direct democracy was chosen to be the most beneficial way to create public policy. The ballot proposition has been around since the late 20th century during the Progressive era of government with a goal of allowing citizens to act when the Government was unable to do so. The problem is who actually has the time/patience to sit through and read each of the 12 cumbersome propositions?

I know I don’t and I love public policy. What ends up happening is that these campaigns are decided upon by voters with little to no information taken mainly from the millions of dollars poured into paid advertising from either side of the campaign, taking their cue from newspaper editors, or as what has happened recently just voting No on all of them. Because then we’ll at least be right back where we started.

The problem I have with the initiative process is the vast amounts of money/time wasted fighting for or against these measures. If that same amount of cash was donated to worthy non-profit organizations working in the area that we’re trying to affect change in, its hard to imagine how much legislation and progress could be made towards some of these goals of: reducing teenage abortion (access to birth control and quality sex education), reducing gang participation (improving local schools, after-school programs, improved access to extracurricular activities) or increasing the amount of renewable energy (better rebates on solar panels or investment in research to make these technologies more affordable).

The average citizen barely has enough time to make sure he/she is registered, figure out where their polling place is and show up on Election Day. How can they really be expected to research an additional 12 issues with opinions on either side that make the other look like the devil incarnate? I feel that the Progressive leaders of our past had good intentions, but the initiative process needs to be reformed if we want it to continue to provide an outlet for true direct democracy and not just those with a few million dollars and nothing better to do.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reveling in Saturday

Well the boys in blue did what many didn’t think was possible, they swept the team with the best record in the NL. They went from losing to the Giants in the final week of the regular season, to becoming an unbeatable team in the postseason. There really never was much home for the Cubs seeing as they trailed for 93% of the series. Now it is on to Philly, a match up I was hoping for, because the Dodgers have experience against them and hopefully won’t get psyched out by Hamels. It has been 20 years since the Dodgers had a postseason series win, and since 1963 since they’ve swept. Unfortunately this may mean Ned Coletti gets to keep his job, despite the Andruw Jones debacle. Hopefully, all of this will payoff next year in not only improving the level of play in the NL West, but encouraging players to re-sign with the Dodgers. Although it might have been fun to have a World “Freeway” Series, the Angels may have been a bigger threat than either the Rays or the Red Sox for the opposite reason. We play them too often.

Now there are just a few key things the Dodgers must keep in check in order to win the next 4:

1. The bullpen cannot be overused. This means the Dodgers must be able to win these games within 9 innings, extra innings will just tire everyone out and we don’t have that luxury in the postseason.
2. Fielding errors must be controlled. The Dodgers have some of the best infielders, but they have only played 3 games together as a team. There hasn’t been a lot of time to get used to how everyone else plays. Luckily, vets Blake and Furcal can help calm down Loney, and DeWitt.
3. We cannot only rely on Manny for the big hit. Martin, Loney, Ethier, Kemp, Blake and Furcal all need to be getting on base relatively consistently.
4. Patience is key at the plate. Everyone needs to draw as many balls as possible and tire out the Phillies’ bullpen. It worked against the Cubs and is directly related to our ability to put up 10 runs in one game.
5. Finally, they need to relax, have a good time and don’t psyche themselves out. This is a team that was behind the D’backs for most of the season and then morphed in September to become Los Doyers Deluxe. Torre will definitely contribute a lot to making sure everyone stays focused and doesn’t get ahead of themselves.

If we make it to the big game, I’m buying a big, new TV. Party at my house, but only if you’re willing to be VERY quiet when things are not going well and bring Santo Candles to light in between innings.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It might not last forever, but it sure feels good

I woke up today in a state of euphoria. No, not because the Senate passed the bailout bill. No, not because tonight Gov. Palin might hammer the last few nails left in the McCain campaign’s coffin. The reason I woke up happy is very simple: The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in October. And, not just a simple win, a straight-up beat down including a GRAND SLAM by J. Lo, a beautiful golf swing homer by Manny, and a excellent insurance homer by Russell (aka Turtle). Wahoo! I think for the first time since the four run homer night in September 2 years ago, was I THIS excited to bleed Dodger blue. That’s the best thing about being a Dodger fan you never have to really believe you’ll win, and even if they don’t you know you’ll be back next April ready to start it all over again.

I know a lot of people who think baseball is boring to watch and the season is too long, but if you’re a fan its really the shortest 6 months you’ll ever spend (7 months if you’re lucky). April 1st seems like a blink of an eye ago when I took the day off to go watch my boys in their home opener at the start of their 50th season in L.A. Name one other pro-team we have here in L.A. that is as storied and respectable as the Dodgers. Name one other pro sporting event you can still go to for $10 a ticket and if you’re willing to make the trek, park for free. I know the beer is ridiculously expensive, the Dodger Dogs are not as good as they used to be and there are a ton of Raider fans, but I love those 9 innings even as I spend the majority of them cursing under my breath.

Give me Vin Scully, who’s been broadcasting the Dodgers since they were in Brooklyn. Give me Manny Ramirez, I made sure to read a book before I judged him (direct quote from a press conference given right after he was traded). Give me Joe Torre, the man who orchestrated this team from a bunch of battling vets vs. rookies to a team who can beat the club with the best record in the National League.

And, even though we have 10 more games to win before the World Series, there’s really (finally) a part of me that believes it might happen. Even if it doesn’t, I’m going to call up today to buy my 15 game package just so I’m there next year cheering “Let’s go Dodgers” and “Charge!”, booing bad calls and waiting to stand for the Wave when it hits Section 27 in Reserve.

For those of you who love baseball and/or sports in general, take some time to read this gem of an essay by Bill Simmons on Manny.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Warning: Major Rant Ahead

Rarely is Congress asked to make a decision as important as the one it voted on yesterday. And the House’s inability to come together to pass a bailout plan is evidence of it being the less deliberative body. Several current House members are in the middle of tough election races, mainly because Congress has a current approval rating lower than even President Bush. In the House, votes are often made along party lines, or for other very selfish and partisan reasons, such as 1) my constituency won’t understand why I voted for this and I can’t risk my neck this November, 2) the Democrats don’t want the bill to look like it was overwhelmingly supported by the Party, in case the bailout goes belly-up we can blame it on Bush and the Republicans.

Hello, McFly! We’re in the middle of a financial crisis and if this does not work we’ll be in even bigger trouble than we are right now. Why not work on legislation that is well thought out and responsible so that there is no hedging of bets on it failing?

I am thoroughly disgusted by the inaction taking place on the Hill. The biggest drop in Wall Street in one day and instead of taking action, we have Representatives on the news finger pointing at the other side as to why this isn’t fixed yet. From the New York Times here are some of the reasons as to why some Representatives voted No:

1. Nancy Pelosi gave a partisan speech right before the vote.- An inappropriate move, but who cares what she says? No one watches C-SPAN!
2. The Republicans voting against cited their opposition to government intervention.- Isn’t the lack of regulation and intervention during the unfolding mortgage crisis the reason we’re at this point now?
3. The Democrats voting against didn’t want taxpayer money bailing out Wall Street fat cats.- How about the $1 trillion lost yesterday in the market and how that affects people’s retirement?

Again there’s a reason this year’s Presidential election will yield unprecedented voter turnout and why several long-standing House members may not be re-elected, it has to do with the American people waking up from their long slumber and wondering “What the heck happened?” The days of wine and roses are over, its time for everyone to pay a little more attention to what’s happening in Washington D.C.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's the Economy Stupid Part 2

I have not been purposely neglecting writing a new post, but I have had a bit of a writer’s block this past week. I just didn’t see much humor in the Government preparing to give $700 billion to Wall Street without any idea of whether this would actually work or just turn into another very large “Oops!” moment for the Bush administration.

Then there’s the response from the Presidential nominees. McCain calls for a time out, as if his presence in Washington is so crucial for brokering the deal. Obama was caught between a rock and a hard place, not wanting McCain to have the upper hand, but also not wanting to look like he doesn’t care. Either way there is no reason why the debates shouldn’t go on as planned.

Economists have weighed on what they feel might be the best solution to the problem at hand, and it seems like most of them are hinging their hat on different theories as to what the outcome will be. The majority feel that handing over a blank check to Paulson and the succeeding Treasury secretary is a bad idea. And that buying debt at the value the banks have listed is a bad deal for taxpayers. If the assets are purchased for less than what they’re listed as, it will probably not help the banks at all. My favorite economist Paul Krugman suggests using the $700 billion to add capital and allow taxpayers a share of the market. When the market recovers (as it should given this plan) profits might actually be made on the public money loaned.

Either way I feel the complexity of this crisis and the public policy solutions necessary to alleviate it are at a level that requires the skill, expertise and willingness to learn that has been at times wholly thrown out of the Presidential race. One example again comes from Governor Palin’s most recent interview with Katie Couric, here’s a brief transcript of her response when asked how the bailout will help out the average American.

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? … Instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up the economy– Oh, it’s got to be about job creation too. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions.

Huh?! How does this have anything to do with health care reform or job creation. Maybe she thought this was a different question or maybe like the Bush Doctrine no one has prepped her on why Wall Street needs a $700 billion bailout. If this does not work everyone is in serious trouble, not just "fat cats" and CEOs, but anyone who would like to continue to live and earn money in the U.S. and even abroad. If we are sent back to a bartering economy, at least Alaska might be in some good shape with all those beaver pelts. I'm going to start hoarding copper and other scrap metal to bring down to the trading post.

Add on top of that Washington Mutual failing and having to be purchased by J.P. Morgan Chase, and I am really starting to believe the sky might just be cracking a bit. The minute WaMu decided to move away from its customer service model to a money hungry banking institution like BofA and WeFa this was bound to happen. This is why I suggest Credit Unions or maybe international banks like HSBC.

All of this is made a little better by the Dodgers clinching the N.L. West Division, but then again made a little worse by the Trojans losing to Oregon State. Oh woe is America right now, which is why I suggest everyone head to your nearest watering hole and have a strong drink. Wake me up on November 5th.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I guess I'm an Elitist

There has been a lot of mudslinging back and forth between the two campaigns about experience and lack thereof. For most of the election, the McCain camp wailed on about the inexperienced Obama who did not have the foreign policy credentials to be Commander in Chief. Then Obama went on EuroTrip: Presidential Style and met with rave reviews from Europeans and their leaders. He added Biden to the ticket in what most felt was an effort to quell this fear of inexperience. Then two weeks later, McCain picked Palin, or what one friend of mine called "The Hail Mary Pass of Politics, that turned into a touchdown." All of a sudden, Dems were staring around at each other wondering, "I thought we were the inexperienced ticket." Since then anyone who mentions Palin's lack of foreign policy, military or legislative experience is rebuffed by a variety of retorts. Some of my favorites are: 1) She's more experienced than Obama, because she is in charge of an entire state government. 2) She has foreign policy experience, because Alaska is closer to Russia. 3) She has military experience, because she is in charge of the Alaska National Guard. 4) The liberal media is slandering her with accusations of inexperience, because they're anti-feminists and "elitists".

The elitist aspect has been the one excuse I've been unable to reconcile. I don't quite understand why Americans should not want the leaders of our country to be well-educated, experienced leaders and visionaries. Ronald Reagan may have been a famous actor at one time, but by the time he ran for President he had already cut his teeth as Governor of one the 3 largest states in the Nation. This is far different from a 2-year stint at the 47th largest state. America has some of the best higher-ed institutions in the World, and every year thousands come to the U.S. from other countries to study. Is it elitist that I worry that Governor Palin went to 6 colleges in 6 years and has no advanced degree? Even for the most entry level job I would assume 6 different transcripts and that many transfers would cause employers to worry about the individual's ability for follow-through.

Interestingly enough, David Brooks, the New York Times conservative opinion writer had a great take on why he believes experiences matters, check it out here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not So Golden Right Now

For those of my readers not in California, I would like to say “Congratulations!”. At least you don’t live in a state that is in crisis on top of already living in a country in crisis. I am still trying to believe that the sky isn’t falling, but its becoming harder and harder with what is going on. Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG are all in trouble. I know that a lot of it has to do with poor choices in lending, but what happens to all the people who have their money or 401K invested with these institutions? I don’t really know but I will attempt to learn more. But back to Cali and why living here is no bueno right now. The State is over 77 days (that is more than 2 ½ months) late in passing a budget bill. This entire time the State Senate and the Assembly have been fighting along party lines with the Republicans sticking it to the Dems, in return for the Dems sticking it to the Reps all year long. It is not until they need 2/3 vote to pass the budget that compromise becomes necessary. Throw in the Governator and you have one political mess.

After much back and forth, the legislature passed a budget around 2:30 a.m. and was promptly threatened with a veto from the Governor, because it did not include all 3 of his budget reform initiatives he demanded. The “rainy day fund” which is to be created to save money when the economy is doing well for year’s when there is a budget shortfall did not come with the restriction Ah-nold proposed. I understand to some extent why he is digging in his heels on this point, because without restrictions on when the money can be pulled from this fund, it could turn into just another pot of money for the State to pull out of at its whim. At the same time, it took this long to pass any budget legislation, I don’t know if 77 days in is really the point at which we want to go back to the drawing board.

When I was in graduate school studying public policy, I assumed that legislation was crafted from research, common sense and thoughtfulness. But after spending sometime in D.C. actually reading legislation, I learned what a hodgepodge of ideas and solutions a successful bill includes. Why? Because every legislator wants to be able to point to how they personally assisted their constituency or prove that they are not just in Sacramento or D.C. saying Yay or Nay. The result is often a very long, impossibly confusing bill that very few people ever read from start to finish.

If Ah-nold sticks to his guns and vetoes the budget, it will be up to the legislature to override him. If they do, he promises to veto every other bill waiting for his approval. In the end, it’s a game of chicken being played with the administration of one of the largest economies in the World, and I’m scared to see who will veer first.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm scared for my couch

For those of you who don’t have television or read the Sports section, you missed what was supposed to be the “best match-up of the NCAA football season” between #1 USC and Ohio State. The result was of course far below what you might expect from such a hyped-up game, with the Trojans dominating the scoreboard 35-3. The poor Buckeyes’ tired from all their trash talking, managed to control the ball for the majority of the game, yet could not put anymore points on the board except for their 1st quarter field goal. The real turning point in the game came when Ohio State’s only touchdown was reversed, because of a penalty. What followed were interceptions, fumbles, sacks and just a very sad game to watch (even for Trojans, because boredom isn’t fun).

I’m still not sure if UCLA’s first string made it to Provo, or if they got stuck somewhere and the club team had to don their jerseys; either way mad shoutout to my two readers who are BYU alums, the Cougars were amazing! They kept the Bruins from scoring while managing to chalk up 59 points of their own, well done!

Apart from college football there is plenty of other great things to watch on TV and I have thrown myself full-fledged into the fall season of shows. So far here’s my list for this year:
1. The Office: my favorite show is back! And I can’t wait to see what happens with a certain pregnant character! I really hope Rainn Wilson wins an Emmy.
2. Lost: I’m trying to keep this on my radar, because I really want to know what’s up with that island. I know the writing has gone downhill, but I have faith and at least we know there is an end in sight.
3. Mad Men: I am so glad I chose to add this to my list and delete Ugly Betty. I need a good old fashioned serial drama that isn’t too cheesy, plus I love retro interior decorating.
4. House: I am going to miss Kumar as a regular, but I wonder what they will do with Chase and the other girl. Hopefully they dye her hair back to brunette, she looks AWFUL blonde.
5. 24: I really hope this show can revive interest after being off for a year. I also hope that Fox doesn’t make us wait until January to watch this awesome show. At the same time I don’t even remember where we left off so I hope there’s some type of prep for the re-release.
6. Grey’s Anatomy & Private Practice: Both of these shows get one more season and if they don’t improve they’re off the list. Note: both are more interesting and funny if watched after a bottle of wine.
7. Brothers & Sisters: I initially watched this show, because it had some big names. Overall, its relatively interesting, but not a nail biter.

Where will I find the time to watch all of these? Answer: 3 little letters: D.V.R., which cuts most of these shows by 25% in time. But I’m deathly afraid at the same time, because the evil cable company just gave me HBO, Starz and Encore for free for a year, are they trying to kill me on purpose?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Dirty Laundry of D.O.I.

Most people assume working for a government bureaucracy is boring, and usually that’s true. It can be at times seem to move at a snail’s pace, doing things backwards, using technology and processes from centuries ago, but every once in awhile those bureaucrats decide to party it up, such as the Department of Interior. A recent scandal was exposed yesterday at said DOI, in the Minerals Management department, whose function is to sell off American oil and gas reserves to the private companies. Although the majority of the wrongdoing went on in the satellite office in Denver, it did extend its reach to Washington D.C. Apparently, for sometime now; employees had been receiving perks from Chevron and other oil companies such as sporting event tickets, free booze, and invitations to fancy events. Two federal employees went to a golf tournament, and were so intoxicated they had to stay at the resort rather than go home. Additionally, one manager was buying cocaine and sleeping with 2 of his secretaries. The woman in D.C. responsible for the satellite office helped steer a contract to a former employee, who before leaving federal service wrote the contract so that it basically detailed exactly his roles and responsibilities with the agency. Probably the worse part was that the Feds in charge of negotiating the contracts would allow the oil companies to renegotiate prices down after awarding the contract to a loss of over $4 million.

I love a good federal scandal, but this also proves another point which I feel is not often mentioned: regardless of who is in office, or who wins the election, the bureaucracy keeps chugging along doing what its always done with very little outside oversight. In most of the agencies, the inspector general’s office is responsible for auditing and investigating thousands with an office of dozens. And, when the wrongdoing is widespread enough too many people become involved for whistleblowers to feel comfortable in telling their story. Even in the DOI situation complaints were filed as far back as 2 ½ years ago. Most people do not want to risk retaliation, especially when it will take so long for an investigation to finish. The federal government is not unique in its size, and unmanageability, it is seen in many large states, counties, cities, and school districts. The amazing part is that when politicians talk about government waste they rarely point their fingers at the bureaucrats, probably because they know they’re voters too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Laughingstock of L.A.

A lot of people talk trash about the Los Angeles Times and rightfully so. The level of journalism has fallen short recently as Sam Zell, the owner of Tribune Broadcasting, has laid off reporters and put profits over everything else in the paper. Prior to his takeover of the Tribune his real estate companies were the largest owner of both residential and office space in the U.S. It’s a bit sad for me as a native Angeleno to not have interesting and informative news reports about my city, but I still attempt to glean some local news on a regular basis. Today though there were two awesome articles that one must check out, if only because they are almost unreal.

First, goats have taken over a brush patch in Downtown L.A. The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency decided it would be cheaper and more eco-conscious if they hired goats. The goats chomp on the brush day and night well being watched by their 71 year-old owner. Even better is that the males are fixed to prevent any hanky panky and keep their eye on the prize, that is eating brush.

Second, in the automotive section there is an awesome rundown of the top 5 redneck cars Levi Johnston (Bristol’s Baby Daddy) should consider purchasing. My favorite is the Trans-Am with the screaming chicken on the hood it is truly breathtaking.

It’s bad enough that I have to watch horrible local newscasters on KTLA (also owned by Zell) i.e. Elizabeth Espinosa and Allie McKay, now I get to read about goats. And its not like we’re in the middle of a slow news season, the state budget is overdue by more than 70 days with no sign of being passed in the near future. The SacBee runs a blog updating what’s going in CowTown, but it reads mostly like a political version of Pink is the New Blog. Yesterday’s top headline: “Sen. Maldonado was chewing gum during speech at the RNC.” Are you serious?!

I guess Chicago has it worse than us, Zell has put up the Cubs and Wrigley Field for the highest bidder. I suggest Chicagoans use some of that community organizing honed on the South Side and drum up some funds to purchase it themselves. Hey, its worked for Green Bay.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Are you ready for some football?!

Brett has done it again, at least during the first game of the season. The football icon started in his 254th consecutive regular game and proved why he shouldn’t retire with his 54 yard touchdown throw for the first score against the Dolphins. I feel a bit sad for Chad Pennington as he was booted and then embarrassed by his middle aged replacement, but that’s what happens when you play against an icon. Suffice it to say, my love for Favre has outweighed my affection for the Packers. That being said I will be rooting for the first time in history for the Vikings to beat the Pack and show the front office why they should have just left Aaron Rodgers on the bench to collect his $25 million.

On a sad note, Tom Brady’s injured and potentially out for the season! Luckily he has Giselle to nurse him in the hospital as long as it doesn’t interfere with the Spring fashion shows and I’m sure Bridget Moynahan will bring Baby Brady for a visit too. I felt bad for Petyon Manning who couldn’t get a break in his season opener against the Bears (Go Bears!- I heart Fargo), but I wouldn’t count the Colts out just yet. But in the end “Who cares?” what really matters in football is that today is jury selection in the O.J. Simpson kidnapping/robbery trial. He should’ve worn Isotoners this time or at least got some balloons to block the security cameras a la Ocean’s 11.

In tennis, Serena kicked Jancovic’s butt on the Court to win the U.S. Open, and although I’m not a huge Williams’ sister fan its nice to see an American win on the home turf. A friend of mine suggested we force all those other foreign tennis stars to become citizens if they want to live here. It would definitely ensure we kick butt in the Olympics. At least our former cousin, Andy Murray, from Scotland, managed to knock down Nadal from his oh so pretty Spanish pedestal. I think it might have been the hair tie, or the tape below his knees being not even or the fact that his feet had lost circulation from wearing shoes 1 ½ sizes too small. That guy has dedication, probably as a result of his slightly OCD tendencies and his need to maintain Rockstar status in the home country.

Last but not least my wayward Dodgers got back on track (for now) by sweeping the D’backs this weekend. Yesterday’s game was practically handed to us by the sloppy playing Arizonians. Maybe they’re preoccupied with their Senator running for President, or wondering why they have jerseys saying “Los D’backs”, or they have just realized as the Dodgers will soon (if they make it to the postseason) is that being 1st in the N.L. West is a lot like being Runner-Up in the Miss Alaska pageant; it doesn’t get you far, oh wait I take that back there’s a 1 in a million chance it will get you a World Series ring or the Vice Presidency.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Babies, Blowouts and Bevery Hills

This was such an exciting 3-day weekend I barely know where to start. So let me begin with the beguine…Bristol Palin is preggers. Now I know that this has happened to many a young female, but to the offspring of a conservative, abstinence only sex education, VP Candidate from the frozen tundra, feels like some bad joke repeated on the nightly comedy shows. But its true and the GOP convention has to now figure out which is worse Gustav stealing their thunder or all the attention placed on Bristol’s 5-month baby bump. I must give 10 points to the McCain camp for artful placement of a baby at a VP candidacy announcement. No one could see the bump with Trig plastered all over her. I thought it was a bit odd that the way she was holding him, but it was just smoke and mirrors, genius. As exciting as this news maybe, I’m even more shocked by reports that state McCain vetted his VP candidate through a Google search. I love internet sleuthing, and recommend it to all my friends who are going out on a first date or finding a roommate, but 2nd in command of the U.S. is definitely something worthy of a more thorough search than a Wikipedia article.

On Saturday I reaffirmed my devotion to the Trojans, and reminded me about how I need them to remain a Dodger fan. If I was a Bruin football fan and a Dodgers fan, I’d be in a constant state of stress and frustration. At least this way I can take a break and enjoy a game where there are no surprises, except for how attractive Mark Sanchez looks without his football helmet on. Finally USC has someone cute to put up on the big screen. John David Booty lacked a lot in the looks department (and QB department as well). I can’t wait for Ohio State in two weeks, bring it on Buckeyes!

And finally, all this excitement is almost eclipsed by the return of Beverly Hills 90210 tonight! I was a major fan of this show back in the day when I was about 10. I have no idea why my parents let me watch that show, but all I could dream about was Dylan and Brandon and try to decide who was hotter. I hated Brenda and Kelly because neither of them realized how lucky they were to hang out with such hotties. Today the LA times interviewed Shannen Doherty and asked her about the “We hate Shannen Doherty” magazine. There was only one issue, but it made a big splash. And believe it or not, I owned a copy!!! My godfather bought it for me, knowing my love/hate relationship with Brenda/Shannen. I am going home tonight to search through my box of memories from elementary school and if I find it, I’m going to frame it. Who knew I had such priceless memorabilia lying around the house?

On second thought, I must actually be getting old, because shows/bands from when I was young are starting to have reunions. Check out NKOTB’s new promo pic. Maybe they’ll have to change their name this time around.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Who says Beauty Pageants are silly?

Wow. I guess that’s all I can say about the past week in politics. The DNC was quite the show. It did not seem surrounded in the typical “We’re the best, because we’re not them” and almost turned a corner towards what the political system might look in the future: A motivated electorate, engaged in the issues and making a point to participate not only at the ballot box, but in the streets and in their homes. I was especially excited to see the number of young people as the apathy of youth has been replaced by a debate over which candidate will serve my generation best. I have to admit the “Bush-McCain” routine had become so ubiquitous that by the end of the 4 days I had almost forgotten that Bush was not running for reelection. But I have to admit, to an extent McCain ran himself into that trap when he started vouching for off-shore drilling and ditching his own vision for immigration reform.

And then like that Poof! Less than 12 hours later I’m watching the 44 year-old governor of ALASKA be introduced as the VP candidate for the GOP party. Okay so let’s first deal with the “important” stuff. Congrats on being the first woman on the GOP national ticket, this is historical. Also, Palin is one of the few statewide Alaskan politicians not currently being investigated or indicted. I know there was some drama about her sister’s baby’s daddy, but I guess that’s been resolved for now. And, most importantly going from Mayor of a town of 5,000 to VP Candidate in less than a decade is a true accomplishment. But after all of that there begs the question, Why her?

Well if McCain followed my 3 rules for picking a VP nomination she satisfies 2.5 out of the 3. First, she is not as tall as him, and looks like she’s had no run-ins with skin cancer. Second, she’s young and adds a bit of pizzazz and 21st century to the ticket. I give her a half for the name because McCain-Palin rhymes a little bit too much for me. Now if only we knew more about her and her experience. So far here are the details I’ve picked up: She was runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant, grew up in the Duct-Tape capital of Wasilla (where the Iditarod starts from), has 5 kids, is a life long member of the NRA and her husband is a ¼ Eskimo. I’m sure John and Sarah will have lots to talk about on their upcoming campaign trips, starting with rethinking that beehive on the back of her head.

I have decided maybe I should run for city council for Ye Olde Friendly Towne and maybe I too can be the VP candidate in a mere 8 years. First order of business will be bringing more liquor licenses to Uptown, which may cause me some grief in years to come, but at least I can count on Cindy McCain as a donor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

American President: Season 44

I’m sad to see the Olympics end, and frustrated that I will have to wait 4 more years until more international name-calling ensues. I guess there’s always the Winter Olympics, but other than Russia most of those countries are so darn nice and peaceful like Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands. At the same time I am overjoyed by the fact that I will not have to see Bob “I look like a Camel” Costas on TV for four hours a night. Instead he’s been replaced by all the anchors reporting from the Democratic National Convention. Too bad the DNC is only aired for an hour a night on the main channels, and to get full coverage I’m forced to watch C-SPAN!

Unfortunately with less than 2 months before the Election my free time has been eaten up by all the comings and goings of politicians and the like. I guess I admit to being a junkie, but who knows if my psyche can handle much more of the commentary I heard last night.

Here’s a brief list of things I’ve heard commentators say that only make the American voter sound dumb:

  1. Americans vote for candidates based on their character not on their policy. If that is really the case, (and maybe it is) why even bother with a campaign platform and the endless number of policy documents on the campaign sites? Instead the candidates should focus on selling themselves to the American public much like people on dating sites such as Match.com.
  2. Biden was chosen as a running mate to prove that Barack Obama cares about national security. And if he had chosen someone else, does that mean he doesn’t care about national security?
  3. Michelle Obama’s speech is looking to prove that Barack and her stories’ are typical American and not exotic. Last I checked Hawaii is one of the 50 states, so I don’t really know how being raised there is “exotic”. I almost feel like its more “exotic” to be raised on a farm in the middle of Idaho, considering there are less people with that experience than living in a tourist centered economy in a mid-size city.
  4. Hillary Clinton supporters need to be validated otherwise they might not vote at all. Its too bad Hillary didn’t win, and understandable to be disappointed after such a long hard fight. At the same time I don’t think Nastia Liukin is swearing off Chinese food for the rest of her life because of what happened in the parallel bars, and they were tied for the Gold! Barack won fair and square. Hillary’s loss was improbable, but it happened, no more whining please!
  5. The next President will be able to “fix” all of the problems that exist today. I understand it’s important to set lofty goals that are impossible to reach, but this goes above and beyond what is reality. First, Presidents do not make or break an economy. Yes, more could have been done about the mortgage subprime situation, but in the end prices rising out of control could not have been controlled by anyone. The Iraq situation will continue to linger on regardless of who is elected, because we’re not going to just cut and run no matter what. And, education needs a lot more help than any one individual can offer, with the majority of the decision making and change occurring at the district level.

So please commentators, in an effort to educate rather than placate the public, try and act like this is more than what this election has become: a decision as to who the American public would prefer to see on their TV for the next 4 years.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And the Runner-Up for President Is...

This is a great week for degenerate gamblers. You have more Olympic events in normally played sports such as Soccer (Futbol), Baseball, and Basketball, as opposed to those random ones we watch for pure voyeurism such as women’s discus and pole vault. I can’t imagine how one determines the point spread on the parallel bars in gymnastics. And in my other favorite topic area, politics, Obama is on the verge of announcing his VP nomination. Now it is kind of surprising to me that the American public has very little direct influence in choosing the 2nd in command. I mean if something happens to the President we’re stuck with this person for better or worse. I can’t believe that didn’t play out as a scarier scenario when Bush picked Cheney. It also surprises me that most people don’t think that the other person on the ticket matters very much. I guess that is true, but there is always a risk that he/she may do more damage than they’re worth, stick their foot in their mouth or have some very deeply buried oddities.

If I was going to pick a running mate I would consider a few things first:

  1. Does he/she make me look more or less powerful? For Obama that would be a no on Senator Biden, seeing as he’s been around A LOT longer and has A LOT more experience. Who wants to look like the little kid with the old uncle? Then again, this didn’t seem to hold true for our current administration.
  2. Does our name combo sound nice? Obama/Biden- okay. Obama/Sibelius-what a mouthful! Obama/Kaine- very nice. McCain/Pawlenty- kind of yuck. McCain/Lieberman- too long.
  3. Finally, does he/she complement me in photos? This is probably much more important than it used to be given our access to massive amounts of media. I would prefer someone that doesn’t make me look too short, but who I could also still wear heels around. I think this might be harder for McCain than Obama. He’s so pasty already, he should really think about someone who can look at the crowd with the sun in his eyes without a baseball cap.

The VP choice is the last thing to be excited about until the actual election, because it is one of the few things in politics that reminds me of sports. I feel just like I did a few weeks ago at the end of the trading deadline in baseball. And even though I don’t think either candidate have a Manny Ramirez up their sleeve, I can’t wait to see if my predictions are right. If I was a betting person, I’d pick Kaine for Obama and Pawlenty for McCain, but the U.S. will lose to Cuba in Olympic baseball.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's as Simple as A-B-C, right?

For a year and a half, myself and my bearded friend were substitutes in the Los Angeles Unified School District. I was lucky enough to make friends with the staff and faculty of a neighborhood school, loved and cared for by its students and families. The kids were pretty typical, slightly less sophisticated than you might find in a private school, but overall eager to learn and excited to hear what you had to offer. I taught every grade from Pre-K to 5th while I was there including 3 special education classrooms. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and if it had not been for the fact that I was about to graduate with my Master’s in a completely different field, I could have imagined myself getting a Special Ed credential and staying.

My bearded friend has had quite a different experience teaching middle and high school. He also happened to get assigned to a few of the District’s biggest eyesores. Schools where fights and lockdowns are a common occurrence, students still attend year-round and the physical state of the buildings and equipment are in disrepair. As a result, this made for many long discussions about what could be done to even begin to help the nation’s 2nd largest school district. We couldn’t come up with a lot of real solutions, but did believe there were a few things that HAD to change.

  1. Better Administration at the School Level: Schools that were pleasant to sub at always seemed to have administrators (Principals/Assistant Principals) who seemed in control, and hands-on. These were the type of people who took the time to get to know your name and remembered it when you showed up on campus a week later. LAUSD seems to have a dearth of good administrators, because it’s a very different thing to manage versus teach. One does not necessarily translate into another.
  2. Better Oversight and Administration at the District Level: There is no place scarier in the world than 333 Beaudry St. Things literally go there to die. Every person I’ve ever talked to there told me and other subs I knew a different story. At LAUSD, there is always at least two unnecessary steps that must be taken in person or over the phone. Here’s a prime example, the State of CA renews your credential online, its simple and fast, and takes about 3 minutes. Anyone can go on the site and search for a person by first and last name to determine if they currently hold a valid credential. LAUSD requires you call them to tell your “credential assistant” that you have renewed online and then prints out a copy. There must be thousands of jobs at that building that are unnecessary, but continue because no one has any clue about how money is being spent/wasted.
  3. The union: Unfortunately it is a necessary evil, because of the disastrous management of the District at the top. If it hadn’t been for them threatening to walk out, who knows how long the District would have taken to fix the paycheck debacle. At the same time, the union creates a safety net for a lot of mediocre and straight-up bad teachers to stay employed at relatively decent salaries. Subs can usually tell a good teacher from a bad one based on the state of their classroom (complete disarray vs. relatively organized), to the level of detail left on the Lesson Plan (watch a movie all day vs. several different options with distinct time limits for each). There really are teachers that come in everyday and read the newspaper, while giving their kids mindless assignments, and kicking out the kids that give them a hassle thus interrupting their morning coffee.

I really hope that one day I will get the nerve and the strength to go back to work in the education field. Often I feel that it’s too big of a mess, that there’s no good place to start, and too emotionally charged for most people to have an honest opinion about it. Which is why for now I’ll stick to buses, people can be a lot more level-headed about transit.

For further reading, check out the Times Magazine article on what people are doing in New Orleans to transform public ed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Still Don't Like Bob Costas but...

I have become obsessed with the Olympics over the past few days to the point where I even forgot to see how my L.A. Dodgers are doing. Luckily, we're still chugging along, 1 game back from the D'backs, and in the usual constant shift of our lineup. The Olympics on the other hand have had in their short 6 days of life proved to be full of fun and random stories.

First, the little girl who sang China's national anthem was actually just a cute face, while the real singer was placed behind the Wizard of Oz curtain, due to some unsightly teeth. Maybe the director of the Opening Ceremonies, Mr. Zhang is just a big fan of Milli Vanelli and C&C Music Factory. Either way I'm a bit surprised by everyone's shock and horror of this bait and switch on the Olympic viewer. If anything we here in the U.S. value looks above all, just look at recent finalists on American Idol, I'm sure that Chicago would do the same thing in 2016 if it came down to it.

Then there was the faux pas by the Spanish basketball team posing for a picture while trying to make their eyes look slanted. I spent some time in that country and they definitely have a different definition of politically correct. I think for most Spaniards any non-Spanish individual is so abnormal to them that other races and nationalities suffer from the most inexcusable stereotypes. The big deal in Spain is whether you're still a good practicing Catholic, had family connected to the Franco regime and if you sympathize with the Basque separatist movement. There is little discussion about the discrimination suffered by immigrants, primarily from Morocco and Africa, and I don't know if that will change soon. It is definitely a case of something that is a big deal to the U.S., but still an evolving phenomenon for other countries.

And finally, Michael Phelps. There is no star bigger than him this year. I love watching how quickly he goes from 3rd to 1st and puts more than entire body lengths between him and his closest opponent. Overall, he just seems like a young kid that channeled all his energy and focus into one thing that he is amazingly good at. His popularity has also made me realize how based on what sport the U.S. is best at in that particular Olympics, the news media and attention quickly shift to highlight it. In the past, it seemed we were all about track and field with Jackie Joyner and gymnastics with Dominique Dawes and Shannon Miller. I remember boxing being big when De La Hoya fought. But I couldn't remember many of the big swimmer names until this year. Now I feel like Piersol, Coughlin, Lesak and of course Phelps are household names and have launched swimming back into the American public eye.

Hey, we're America we like to watch sports where we're guaranteed to win. Which is my soccer loving friends, Professional Soccer leagues will never take off to NBA and MLB levels. The U.S. team just got booted out by Nigeria, geez now that's embarrassing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Little Known Phenomenon Called Supply & Demand

Although I shouldn’t be surprised, it never ceases to amaze me how little the general public and now most politicians know about the economy. Even if you haven’t taken a single course, the idea of supply and demand is pretty basic. They tend to have an inverse relationship, i.e. when one goes up the other goes down. If its that simple, than why have two solutions for two very pressing problems completely ignored this obvious market fact.

First, illegal immigration. The number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has fallen 11% over the past year according to a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration leaning institute. The CIS attributes this decrease to increased enforcement, and offers ICE a great big pat on the back for a job well done. Never in its report does it consider the economy as a factor. With the housing market collapsed, new construction has come almost to a halt. Many of those coming to America find temporary work in industries such as construction. At the same time, unemployment overall has gone up, food and fuel prices are skyrocketing and the dollar is falling abroad. Maybe there are less immigrants, because the U.S. is becoming a less attractive destination due to our weakened economy. Hmm…maybe they never thought about that, or maybe they just want ICE to continue their workplace raids.

Second, gas prices. About a dozen of the Republican house members have been staged out over the last week pontificating on the need for Congress to lift the ban on off-shore oil drilling. They claim that this increased production of oil domestically will soften prices now, even though the first fruits of this drilling is years ahead in the future, if ever. One politician even claimed that the reason oil prices have recently fallen is because of their threats to expand U.S. oil production. Maybe, the reason oil prices are falling is because demand has decreased as less people drive, and purchase less goods, requiring fewer deliveries. Overall, Paul my favorite economist sums it up nicely in his piece last week, please read here.

In other news, major congrats to the U.S. Men’s 4 x 100m relay team. We kicked the Frenchies’ butt. That’s what happens when you trash talk the U.S.A.!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

When You're a Jet

All morning long I couldn’t help but sing the famous West Side Story song in my head “When you’re a jet, you’re a jet all the way, from your first cigarette, to your last dying day.” I know Brett Favre will probably not be remembered for his years playing in New York, but I’m looking forward to watching him don the green and white uniform. It seems that in a moment, Green Bay did away with their biggest distraction and at the same time, favored son for an undisclosed draft pick. I feel most sorry for Aaron Rodgers, considering Favre got the Pack within one game of the Super Bowl last year, he does have some very big shoes to fill. Maybe this will be a “rebuilding year” for Green Bay. While the Jets may finally have a guy at the helm that can take them farther than they’ve gone in the past 8 years with Chad Pennington. I still really had hoped Favre would have stuck it to Green Bay execs by going to play for the Vikings, but that uniform doesn’t look good on anyone and I’m sure he’s tired of playing on a frozen tundra. In the end, it leaves me wondering whether my love for the team is bigger than #4. I felt I could go forward rooting for the Pack with Favre retired, but now I have an inclination to still want this guy to win. Despite all the drama and confusion, he’s just one of those people that you want to succeed.

In other news, I plan on writing to Favre to warn him about the dangerous New York Manhattan clubs. A 24 year-old airline ticket agent was found dead in a closet yesterday after attending Lil’ Kim’s birthday party. This story should be turned into an urban tale to warn young girls of over drinking and trying to return to clubs once kicked out. The clubgoer was thrown out of the club after trying to enter a men’s restroom. Now for the lady readers of the blog, honestly how many of you have done this in a pinch or seen someone do this? The line for the women’s restroom can be interminable at times and as the saying goes, “When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.” Either way, the whole story sounds like it has yet to be told as a worker at the club was recently charged for the murder after he admitted to hitting her with a blunt object.

Side note: I can’t believe people are still coming out to celebrate Lil Kim’s birthday after the prison stint and the unforgivable purple outfit at the MTV awards. How long ago was it that “How many licks?” was heard on the radio.

Okay enough East Coast news for one day. Early congratulations to all you superstitious couples getting married on 08-08-08 and I can’t wait to see what goes on tomorrow in Beijing!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Don't Hate on JetBlue

Yesterday, JetBlue the cool cousin of Southwest, announced it would begin charging $7 for a blanket and pillow. As usual, local newscasters made their requisite trip to LAX to raise their fist in ire over these new fees. Earlier in this blog I talked about how unfair I thought the checked baggage fee was, and how I felt it could be put to better use as an incentive fee. JetBlue has seemed to take on this advice.

First, not everyone needs a blanket and pillow. I don't even believe it has much to do with gender since I know a lot of women who suffer from hot flashes. Also, I don't even know if it has to do with age, since my Grandmother always travels with an extra sweater. I think this new fee from JetBlue really has to do with those who choose to sleep rather than read, watch the free TV or bother their neighbor with mindless chitchat. I am one of those people who can sleep anywhere, so $7 for a blanket and pillow which I can use AGAIN (hello, the environment) and is of better quality than the free one doesn't seem to me like such a big deal. I feel like this is in line with JetBlue's already genius idea to charge a few bucks for a nicer set of headphones.

US Airways on the other hand is running itself into a potential lawsuit with its new policy on charging for non-alcoholic beverages. I hope this doesn't extend itself to water, considering travelers' need to stay hydrated on flights. Not to mention what will happen if you're stuck in the airplane for longer than expected, and you forgot to get some cash out of the ATM. I know these small charges add up to large amounts for the industry, but maybe they should consider revamping their management? I'm starting to feel like the airline industry is becoming eerily similar to the already disastrous American car industry. Just like how GM killed its electric car so it could make Suburbans in the late 1990s, airline industries might want to bank its future on more than a Coke or two.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Manny Mania

I know my last few posts have been sports-centered, but its hard to focus on much else with Manny Mania taking over L.A. In less than 12 hours after news of the trade was made public, the Dodgers sold over 11,000 tickets, more than compensating for the $1 million relocation bonus they have to pay Mr. Ramirez. I watched all four games of this weekend's Arizona series and came away feeling confident that Manny will be a positive influence for the team's prospects in the post-season and help reinvigorate a city to its hometown team. My favorite part of his interview was when he described how people should judge him in L.A. based on his checkered past in Boston. Manny responded with "You have to read a book, before you judge a person. ", which I think was supposed to be the idiom "Don't judge a book, by its cover".

L.A. loves celebrities and our athletes are included in that bunch, which is why showboats like Kobe Bryant and Reggie Bush are always followed with large groups of fans. But think of the Dodgers team this year and there's been little in the way of a superstar. What we had was a well-rounded roster, helped out by an amazing bullpen, but no big bat or big name to really bring people to the park. That's the weird thing about L.A. fans whether we're in 1st place or 3rd, the amount of people at the park on any given day has more to do with what else is going on in the City and if there's a promo involved like on Friday's game (Free Cooler Night). You'd be amazed how fast tickets sell out to Dodger Blanket night.

I watched Manny hit a homer on Sunday afternoon and cheered with the other 55,000 fans "Manny, Manny, Manny" until he came out to tip his hat to the crowd. And even though we didn't sweep the D'backs, splitting the series was a gift and puts us in a great position as we head into the homestretch of the season. I don't doubt that the Dodgers will make it to the post season, I just hope that in all of the Manny hoopla we don't forget about the core team that made this possible prior to last Thursday. I tip my hat to Martin, Kemp, J. Lo, Pierre, Kent, Ethier, Billingsley, Saito & Kuo. The best part is whether or not the Dodgers can afford Manny next year, a large percentage of these guys will still be wearing Dodger Blue come next April.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just in the Nick of Time

For you baseball fans out there today's trading deadline at 1pm had us all on pins and needles. Even made worse if you are a Dodger fan, for fear that the not-so bright Ned Coletti was actually going to think of trading someone or something for Greg Maddux. Yes, I agree his spot in the Hall of Fame is secure, but there are few things worse than an aging starting pitcher. Plus, the Dodgers already have an over the hill 2nd baseman and former shortstop. I believe in ageism when it comes to baseball.

But to the shock of many, it turns out by some chance of fate, Manny Ramirez will be wearing Dodger Blue for the rest of this season. I'm so excited about Manny. Who cares if he's a jerk? I think Torre can keep him in line for the 2 months we need him to play. Plus, if he hits a few homers while he's at it, perfect! We gave away very little for him. Boston is even paying the remaining $7 million on his contract. Andy LaRoche was a good prospect, but ever since he broke his thumb, Blake DeWitt has been fine at 3rd. Plus now we have Casey Blake until the end of the season.

I am worried about our outfield though. Ramirez can't run very well, and Pierre has a weak arm. Kemp and Ethier are good, but Ethier doesn't have the big bat. It will be interesting what Torre decides to do with the lineup. In my opinion he should just bench Andruw Jones for the rest of the season.

I cannot utter the words about where I hope the Dodgers end up at the end of the season. But I am happy that I'm a season ticket holder, first dibs on you know what. Yay!

Side note: My advice to Favre is show up for training camp and turn into a circus. I really hope he goes and plays for the Vikings.