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  • February 29, 2008

    Sometimes it's hard to be a woman

    [Posted by ]

    Poor Hillary Clinton. Life on the campaign trail is so hard for her:

    "And I think women just sort of shake their head," Clinton continued. "My friends do. They say, 'Oh, my gosh, this is so hard.' Well, it's supposed to be hard. I'm running for the hardest job in the world. No one has ever done this. No woman has ever won a presidential primary before I won New Hampshire. This is hard. And I don't expect any sympathy, I don't expect any kind of, you know, allowances or special privileges, because I knew what I was getting myself into.

    "Every so often I just wish that it were a little more of an even playing field," she said, "but, you know, I play on whatever field is out there."

    What a trooper.

    As for the level playing field, it's ironic (don'tcha think?) that Clinton would complain about that given that her campaign war chest used to be over 12 times as big as Obama's. Hillary doesn't want a level playing field, she wants to go back to the halcyon days when her nomination was inevitable. She can't compete on a level playing field. She couldn't even win when the deck was ridiculously stacked in her favor.

    For all her talk of solidarity with women, Clinton is one of the worst imaginable examples for women to follow on the road to power: ride your husband's coattails, use your identity as a woman to get votes rather than your ideas, whine about how hard things are, and, when things get really rough - cry.

    Sometimes it's hard to be a woman. It's especially hard with Hillary Clinton out there as a shining example. Ugh.

    Posted by at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)     
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    February 27, 2008

    Vital Idol - The Trainwreck Years

    [Posted by Princess Midwest]

    It’s Wednesday and that means ladies night for Idol. I’m sick, tired and grumpy, so this should be good. And I can’t wait to see what 70s night will bring.

    Carly Smithson – “Crazy on You.” I heart Heart. But nobody can touch Ann Wilson or her sandwich. She’s also making a lot of ugly faces and handling the mic like a cruise ship singer. I’m not even gonna comment on her outfit. Please boot her, America!

    Syesha Mercado - “Me and Mr. Jones.” What a snoozefest. Nice high notes. I must say it’s a personal pet peeve of mine when people who didn’t write a song change it to suit the pronoun of their chosen mates. See: “Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic” by the dreadful Shawn Colvin. I think she may be out like a trout. Simon agrees with me, maybe I should replace Paula when she goes into the psych ward.

    Brooke White – “You’re So Vain.” Don’t look shocked people, hair for brains is a beauty school dropout who finished high school! I love this song. I do feel, however, it should only be sung when at home alone after downing a bottle of wine. There was some studio magic when Carly Simon recorded it and it can’t be recreated.

    Ramiele – “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” Aw, she’s cute! She sounds pretty good, I think “Turn the Beat Around” would have been better for her, but overall no complaints. She does look like she’s reading a teleprompter though.

    Kristy Swanson – “You’re No Good.” Is a tomboy who likes to drown horses, sweet. I think this was a Linda Rondstadt song. I liked her version better, but Kristy’s not half bad. Good grit to it and almost entirely in tune. She needs a major wardrobe intervention, but I think she’ll be safe this week.

    Amanda Winehouse – “Carry on Wayward Son.” She likes to read about rockstars to edumacate herself. Her Cher voice if awful. I haven’t heard if VFTW is still in effect, but this has to be what’s going on. This is fucking terrible. The crazy dancing, the marbles in her mouth vocals her confidence. The gremlin hair is also not good.

    Alaina Whitaker – “Hopeless.” Wow, this is the worst of the season so far. But she looks lovely in the blue dress. The verses are dull and the chorus was painfully shrill. Simon says he thinks she a dark horse. That means he likes her tits.

    A-Train “The Underdog” - “If You Leave Me Now.” This may be the worst song choice ever. The performance was weak and the end notes almost popped my clogged eardrums.

    Kady Malloy – “Magic Man.” Lifelong opera singer – in the toilet. I never thought I’d have to add Ann Wilson to my do not touch them list, but consider her added. In a moment of extreme irony, she sings the lyric “sang in tune.” Worst of the night.

    ’ – “All By Myself.” So whoever “helps” contestants with their song choices, must have an excellent poker face and a cruel twisted heart. Who let her sing this in public? Kady, you’ve been replaced as worst of the night. This is even worse than Renee Zellweger in Bridgett Jones’ Diary. Sick or not, she’s got to go.

    Tops: Ramiele, Kristy Lee
    Dream boot: Carly
    Boot: Syesha, Kady, ’


    Posted by PMW at 08:25 PM | Comments (3)     
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    February 26, 2008

    American Idol: The Top Ten Guys

    [Posted by ]

    Princess Midwest is out shopping and showing off her fabulous new haircut, so expect a little less swearing and a lot less discussion of things like "pitch" and "tone" in your recap tonight.

    Our theme tonight is "the music of Perry Como". Just kidding. It's "the 70s". Well, I guess that's 10 better than last week.

    First up is Michael Johns. He plays tennis, although he's no Pat Cash. Anyway, Michael sings Fleetwood Mac's "You Can Go Your Own Way". Michael sings every song exactly like Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, but with half the passion and twice the vibrato. He's managed to strip the song of any sense of urgency. It's "You Can Go Your Own Way And I Won't Even Bother To Get Off Of The Couch". Utterly boring.

    I AM BEOWULF!

    Jason Castro has beautiful shiny eyes, although that might just be the pot. Jason and his acoustic guitar make the fatal error of singing a song originally sung by a group with The Bee Gees' "I Just Want To Be Your Everything". It's a mess, but it's a charming mess. He really has incredibly long eyelashes too. Hmm...you know, I strongly suspect that it really doesn't matter how Jason sings tonight. He's too cute for America to send home. Yet.

    Does watching American Idol make anyone else want to download a bunch of Bee Gees songs?

    Up next is Luke Menard to sing "Killer Queen" by Queen. I think his falsetto is better than his regular voice, but it's still pretty nasal and frankly unpleasant to listen to. I'd say he's got 1/1,000 of Freddie Mercury's talent and 1/1,000,000 of his charisma. Oh, and I love it when Simon agrees with me. In general, that means I'm on the right track.

    Reading People on my flight home last night, I learned that Robbie Carrico dated Brittney Spears for three months. It must have been hard for K-Fed to walk in his footsteps. But hey, Robbie is singing Foreigner's "Hot Blooded". I would like this song, except that I hate all songs where singers refer to their lovers as "Mama". Like Michael Johns, Robbie has the posturing down, but he doesn't have the range, passion or the raggedness to pull it off.

    Something tells me that Danny Noriega was born for the 70s. God, I love this kid even more than Sanjaya. OMG, he's really singing "Superstar" by The Carpenters. And, shockingly enough, he's pulling it off. He's got a nice, deep voice for someone who comes off so feminine. Go Danny! I'm really tempted to vote for him.

    We're back from the break with David Hernandez (who?), here to entertain us with "Papa Was A Rolling Stone". He looks angry, but sounds kind of awesome. He can really belt out the big notes and so the whole thing is showy, but quite fantastic compared to how colorless some of the other performers were.

    If you miss Monday's season finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, then Skynet has already won.

    Jason Yeager is singing the Doobie Brothers' "Without Love". Oh, the dancing. The dancing! Make it stop. Jason has a decent voice, but he's just so unbearably smiley and cheesy. He'll coming soon to a cruise near you. I hope. Although I'm afraid that Jason is going to pull a Hillary Clinton and try to cry his way out of elimination.

    Good God, there are still 3 more to go. Chikezie is singing something by Elliott Yamin's favorite singer Donny Hathaway. It might be called "I Believe"? Chikezie is actually having a lot of fun and doing a great job. He's got some soul! Who knew?

    David Cook and his stupid hair are singing "All Right Now" by Free. He's playing guitar, so he actually looks cool. Put an electric guitar in a man's hands and he looks cool. It's just a fact. Don't try to fight it. David is playing this too serious. He wants to be a dark Chris Daughtry guy and that's fine but this is really a good time song and he should be having more fun with it rather than trying to turn it into something angsty.

    No really, you must watch the season finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles if you want to save the world from the killer robots.

    Finally, it's time for David Archuletta. I want to love David, but then he has to go and sing John Lennon's "Imagine". With so many wonderful sensitive 70s folk singers to choose from, why this? I guess the answer is that even though the song sucks, David doesn't. I suspect this isn't the first time he's performed this song. It's professional and polished and light years beyond what everyone else did. I'm not sure that's a good thing though. Do we want perfection or do we want someone that's going to let go? I guess that's the difference between pop and rock. I wanna rock!

    Tonight's best:

    David Hernandez
    David Archuletta
    Danny Noriega

    The worst:

    Jason Yeager
    Luke Menard

    I predict that Jason gets kicked off Thursday.

    Posted by at 08:28 PM | Comments (2)     
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    February 23, 2008

    Who wants to be Vice President?

    [Posted by ]

    NY Times smear pieces aside, John McCain has pretty much sewn up the GOP nomination. Now talk's turning to who Maverick should choose as a running mate. Wikipedia lists about 25 candidates. It seems like there's a few ways for McCain to go. He could pick a social conservative to shore up part of the dissatisfied base, pick a woman or minority to try to counter the Dem nominee or choose a rising star to help court the youth vote. Barring the emergence of a young black female social conservative from the south, here are ten potential candidates. Who do you like?

    Who should John McCain choose as his running mate?
    Matt Blunt - Governor of Missouri
    Mike Huckabee -former Governor of Arkansas
    Kay Bailey Hutchinson - Texas Senator
    Joe Lieberman - Senator from Connecticut
    Sarah Palin - Governor of Alaska
    Tim Pawlenty - Governor of Minnesota
    Condi Rice - Secretary of State
    Paul Ryan - U.S. Rep. from Wisconsin
    Mark Sanford - Governor of South Carolina
    John Thune - South Dakota Senator
      
    pollcode.com free polls
    Posted by at 09:10 AM | Comments (3)     
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    February 20, 2008

    Vital Idol – Some of Us Are Sick

    [Posted by Princess Midwest]

    It’s ladies night. I’m a bit late, but get the luxury of fast forwarding through Shecrest’s fake tan face.

    Kristy Lee Cook – “Rescue Me”. She’s very pretty and a very average singer. She’s also a horrendous dancer. I fear the guy vote will keep her like Hayley Scrubnato was kept last year.

    Plus Size Model – “Say a Little Prayer”. Yes, she can sing Aretha/Dionne Warwick. I also like her weave.

    Alisha Whitaker – “I Love You More Today (Than Yesterday)”. Note, I do not recall the correct title of this song, but she’s working it. She looks a lot like Carrie Underwood, which will likely work against her when the Clive Davis’ of the world get to rigging. I expect her to sail into the top 12.

    Amanda Overmyer - “Baby Please Don’t Go”. The world does not need another Amy Winehouse. Thank you.

    Amy Davis - “Where the Boys Are”. I have sung a lot of drunken karaoke in my day. I’ve tackled Journey, Meatloaf, “The Pina Colada Song” on a lot of hooch, and I have never, ever sounded this bad. She also resembles a pekingnese.

    Brooke White - “Happy Together”. Stupid song. It was stupid last night and it is still so. Nice hair, very Dianne Cannon in Ally McBeal. I hate her tone, and while she’s singing somewhat in key, it just gets to me. Good thing the world hates curly hair. I bet she’ll be out in the next week or two.

    A-Train - “Spinning Wheel”? She has the longest name ever, so I’ll call her A-Train. Lots of soul, but not the chops to back it up. Anyone remember Vondell? Yeah, she’s gonna be out soon.

    Kady Malloy - “Groovy King of Love”. Fabulous hair and she also looks like Carrie Underwood. And girl can sing. She does sound nervous though. Top 12.

    ’ - “Piece of My Heart”. I was waiting for someone to take me to church, and she’s doing it, doing it, doing it well like LL. Best of the night so far. I also appreciate the doorknocker earrings.

    Ramiele Mulabulay - “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”. Pretty good with nice high notes, but I think this is an easy pick, I’m curious to see how she does moving forward.

    Syesha - “Tobacco Road”. Courageous but bad song choice. It’s too much blues and not enough rhythm and the low and high notes are killing her.
    Carly nee Hennessy Smithson – “Sorry Kris’ sister, I have no clue what this song is”. I love me some Irish people. But at the risk of sounding like an arse, this is American Idol. That aside, I think she belongs on a cruise ship somewhere. She’s got negative charisma.

    Posted by PMW at 09:36 PM | Comments (9)     
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    February 19, 2008

    Vital Idol – The Wisconsin Primary Edition ‘08

    [Posted by Princess Midwest]

    Princess Midwest punching in for duty, kids. People said I’d have to be crazy like a Huckabee to do this again, but I do it for the children.

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted and a few things have changed, my last name being the biggest new thing. I shirked my feminist roots and chucked my maiden name in favor of my new husband’s. I’d considered changing my online moniker to Queen Midwest, but it lacks style and consonance. I’m also back in the music game, trying my hand at the four-stringed mistress known as the bass guitar.

    What does this have to do with Idol, you ask? Well, exactly nothing. I’ll still be bringing my musically pedigreed opinions and occasional drunken rants. Being an election year, you may see Princess Pundit rear her head as well. On with the show …

    Like the lady I am, I missed the first two fellas because I was getting my hair done. I walked in as David Cook was starting. Here’s a review of the rest of the night.

    David Cook – Should almost certainly be referred to as Dave – for his scruffy looks and his incredible resemblance to the guys I dated my freshman year in college. He’s emo and grungy and not in a good way. Plus he’s go the rocker vibe of Bo Bice and the cheesiness of Chris Sligh. I’ve always hated the Turtles, too. Nothing original here, I predict he won’t make the final 12.

    Brian Jaegermeister – Has a serious streaking problem. And holy fuck he picked “Moon River.” He’s really taken all of the feeling out of the song, his phrasing is forced and he can’t really hit the notes. But he has nice teeth. I think if he picks songs wisely, he could stick around a bit.

    Robbie Carricho – Toured with Britney Spears in 2000! He’s cute for a bearded guy. He’s chosen “One is the Loneliest Number.” While I prefer Aimee Mann’s cover, he’s not half bad. If I could ignore his bandanna and wallet chain, I’d like him more. Regardless he’s tops so far this evening. I’m willing to make a wager that he cuts off his blonde locks when he makes the top 5.

    David Archuletta – Gay two ways from Sunday, but damned adorable. He gives us a very “High School Musical” version of “Shop Around.” I can only imagine who had to talk him out of doing “In His Kiss.” He’s technically very good, but I like a meaty tone and soul. His voice also cracked once. Safe for a while. Plus, Shecrest has a boner for him.

    Danny Noriega – “Jailhouse Rock.” He’s OK. But I anticipate people will mix him and Archuletta up, and he’ll be out pretty soon.

    Luke Menard – Ye haw. Princess thinks he’s handsome. Until he opens his Paul Young voice. He sucks. Baaaaad. And his falsetto is weak.

    Colton Berry - “Suspicious Minds.” He actually has a little soul in his voice, which I haven’t seen much of in the guys, so I like him. And he can sing in key and phrase a bit.

    Garrett Haley - It’s an Idol Hobbit. I’m so excited! He’s picked “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” As Simon would say, it’s a cruise ship performance. Alas, he’s tween handsome. I’m thinking top 12.

    Jason Castro – He’s cute, even with dreads. He’s playing guitar to “Daydream.” I think this song really sucks, but he has a huge advantage playing guitar. It allows him to set the pace of the song and make it his own. I wonder if Idol is ready for dreadlocks. He’s my fave of the night so far.

    Michael Johns – He’s originally from Australia and looks a bit long in the tooth. His song is “Light My Fire.” Those of you who know me (Kris), know I have a deep, burning hatred for Doors music. He’s got some soul, but he’s a bit pitchy and sounds a bit cartoonish. I’m willing to ignore it all. Top 12.

    Posted by PMW at 08:53 PM | Comments (6)     
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    February 18, 2008

    What should a conservative in Wisconsin do?

    [Posted by ]

    The Wisconsin primary tomorrow presents conservatives like me with quite a dilemma. I could vote for John McCain, but since he's already going to win it's kind of a wasted vote and besides, I don't exactly like McCain. Alternatively, I could vote for Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul to send a message to the GOP. Unfortunately, that message would be "I am crazy". Not exactly what I have in mind.

    In Wisconsin, I even have the option of voting in the Democratic primary. So, I could vote for Clinton or Obama. But, do I choose the candidate that I think McCain will have the best chance against or do I choose the candidate I'd rather have as President assuming that either will beat McCain?

    Finally, I could just abstain from voting.

    So, what to do? First, I can't just not vote. If I didn't, I'm quite sure that the ghost of my father would rise up to kick me in the ass. Second, I think it's just flat out wrong to vote in the Democratic primary for strategic reasons. The Dems have the right to choose their own nominee. I get so upset every two years when my neighbors (95% of whom vote for Dem candidates) vote in the Republican congressional primary for the most extreme candidate in order to make sure that our Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin gets to face the weakest opponent.

    I guess that leaves voting for McCain. Well, I guess it's good practice for November. I'll know exactly how long to hold my nose.

    Posted by at 02:18 PM | Comments (3)     
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    February 17, 2008

    (American) Idol Thoughts – Season Seven

    [Posted by ]

    Now that American Idol is down to the final 24, it’s about the time we write about it here. This season, however, may be a little different. First, last season’s guest recapper, Princess Midwest, recently joined a local alt-country band as a singer/bass player. So, she’ll be spending more time making music than evaluating it. I have a class on Wednesday nights too, so our coverage will be spotty at best. That said, some of us may get more involved if there are some really great (or really horrible) contestants this year.

    We’re not the only ones that are less excited about Idol. After the last dull season, the show needs to improve. Here are five humble suggestions from yours truly:

    1. Make sure we have great contestants. The producers and judges can bitch about the talent last season, but they’re the ones who put them into the top 24. With three musical superstars and an Oscar winner under their belts, we know they’re capable of spotting diamonds in the rough. They’ve got to do it again if the show is to remain somewhat relevant.

    2. Openness and honesty. First, be honest about the contestants’ backgrounds. Not everyone is a simple country girl or boy who only sings for their cows. If they, for example, had a major label recording contract before but failed, tell us. The audience only cares about who can sing and connect. We do, however hated being lied to. Along those lines, to avoid any accusation of shenanigans, Idol needs to start releasing the vote totals. Put them up on the website immediately after the results show. It’ll drive traffic and drive talk as superfans will have a full week to plot how to best support their favorites.

    3. Speaking of the web, Idol needs to actually use it more. For a show that has audience interaction as such a key element, Idol doesn’t do much with the interactive possibilities of the internet. Why not do a web poll to determine contestant song choices or wardrobe or a future week’s musical theme?

    4. Kill the finale song. “A Moment Like This” was a big hit, but the subsequent finale songs have been big duds. What’s worse is that the very format of the syrupy songs can determine the winner. Blake was probably going to lose last season anyway, but the finale’s big ballad single made a victory almost impossible. Why not take the time to produce a single for the winner that best suits them, instead of trying to fit them into a terrible song?

    5. Finally, after seven seasons, it’s time for a big twist. How about giving early boots a chance to compete for a spot back into the competition? Or what about counting Randy, Paula & Simon’s votes? The show is too predictable – so shake it up, I say!

    Posted by at 06:03 PM | Comments (2)     
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    February 15, 2008

    A Reason to Like John McCain

    [Posted by ]

    As you know, I'm no fan of John McCain. But, like most people, McCain is neither savior nor Satan. I was pleased to see that McCain contributed the foreword to Buck Compton's new book, "Call of Duty".

    Buck Compton, as some of you may know, was a member of "Easy Company", the parachute infantry company immortalized in Stephen Ambrose's book "Band of Brothers". What you may not know is that Compton also played baseball with Jackie Robinson, played football in the Rose Bowl, prosecuted Sirhan Sirhan for the murder of Robert Kennedy and was appointed to the California Appeals Court by none other than Ronald Reagan. His is clearly a life well (and interestingly) led.

    The fact that a man like Compton would see McCain as fit to contribute to his book makes me think a whole lot more of McCain. Let's just say that Compton's endorsement means more than Mitt Romney's vote ;-)

    Posted by at 09:21 AM | Comments (1)     
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    February 14, 2008

    A Valentine from the Gipper

    [Posted by ]

    Posted by at 08:24 AM | Comments (9)     
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    February 12, 2008

    The Sports History You Most Want To See

    [Posted by ]

    In the wake of the Patriots' Super Bowl loss, I was surprised by the number of non-New England fans who were disappointed. They wanted to see an undefeated NFL team. They felt like the Patriots' loss cheated them out of history.

    It made me wonder what sports accomplishments and milestones people most want to see. And, when I wonder about something, I usually write a poll ;-)

    What sports accomplishment would you most like to happen?
    Undefeated NFL season
    Hockey player scores 100 goals in a season
    Basketball player scores more than 100 points in a game
    Tennis player wins the Grand Slam
    Golfer wins the Grand Slam
    Tiger Woods wins the Grand Slam
    Baseball player hits .400
    Baseball player beats Joe Dimaggio's hit streak
    Racehorse wins the Triple Crown
      
    pollcode.com free polls


    Personally, I most want to see a Triple Crown winner. How about you?

    Posted by at 12:35 PM | Comments (7)     
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    February 10, 2008

    Digital Camera Recommendations

    [Posted by ]

    I need some recommendations for a new digital camera. My requirements:

    • Something fairly small and light
    • A big display - maybe even one of those displays where you can add captions right on your camera
    • The camera should have a relatively short delay. One thing I hate about some digital cameras is how long it takes between pressing the button and the actual picture getting taken
    • My new camera should be equally good for taking pictures indoors and outdoors
    • I want to easily shoot videos from the camera
    • It should cost $300 or less

    Any recommendations? Please post 'em in the comments. Thanks!

    Posted by at 10:17 AM | Comments (2)     
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    February 09, 2008

    Leave Chelsea Alone!

    [Posted by ]

    The Clinton campaign is pissed about remarks from MSNBC’s David Shuster, who said that Chelsea Clinton was being “pimped out” by the campaign. Under pressure from the campaign, MSNBC suspended Shuster.:

    On Thursday, Shuster guest-hosted Tucker Carlson's MSNBC show, "Tucker," and in referring to Chelsea Clinton's role in calling superdelegates on behalf of the Clinton presidential campaign, he asked whether she was "sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?"

    Later that night, he heard from an outraged Reines, who called the remarks "absurdly offensive."

    Shuster was unrepentant. He told Reines his commentary was justified because of the contrast between Chelsea Clinton's overt political role and the aggressive way campaign aides "jump down the throat" of reporters who seek to question her about it.

    However, once the Clinton camp threatened to back out of a MSNBC debate, the network changed their tune:

    Behind the scenes, Phil Griffin, senior vice president at MSNBC, took the criticism over Shuster's remarks from the Clinton camp especially seriously, and Tim Russert helped mediate the situation, according to sources.

    But one high-level NBC source told Politico that apologizing was an act of cowardice on behalf of the network.

    While I certainly question what is so offensive about the term “pimped out”, what I really want to question is why Chelsea Clinton is so beyond reproach. Why is she so damn special? She’s a 27-year old woman, a public figure, campaigning for her mother, a woman who has made her very status as a mother an issue in the campaign.

    My theory is that the Clintons want to make Chelsea untouchable for two reasons. First, because they’re parents and they love their daughter. Second, is because after just a little examination, Chelsea becomes less of a golden child and more of a Hillary Jr.

    While the Clinton campaign narrative is one of 35 years of public service. Of course, only one of those 35 years were spent with Children's Defense Fund. Most of those years were spent practicing corporate law with Rose Law Firm in Arkansas. Likewise, Chelsea Clinton may, after 9/11 thought that “For most young Americans I know, ‘serving’ in the broadest sense now seems like the only thing to do,” but that fact is that she now pulls down a six-figure salary working for a NYC hedge fund and admirers have to point to the fact that she held entry level ticket prices for a ballet event down to $75. Ooooh, power to the people!

    I don’t begrudge either Clinton for getting hers. Good for them. However, I find the way they paint themselves as agents of change and champions of the little people as, well, “absurdly offensive” and not just a little hypocritical.

    Posted by at 11:25 AM | Comments (1)     
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    February 06, 2008

    But who will get the pretentious asshat vote?

    [Posted by ]

    In the aftermath of Super Duper Tuesday, political pundits ponder who will get the youth vote, and the black vote or the seniors vote. But, dear friends, we are overlooking a critically important voter bloc. Who are the pretentious asshats of America going to cast their ballots for? Luckily, Jacob Stockinger is here to help.

    Stockinger is delighted to have three candidates in Clinton, Obama and McCain who have attended or taught at such excellent universities as Yale, Harvard and the University of Chicago. That’s such a step up from George W. Bush, a man so intellectually challenged that he considers Jesus a philosopher. I mean, just imagine.

    With intellectual heavyweights like these, Stockinger knows that pretentious asshats nationwide can make their choice by asking such heavy hitting questions as “Who is your favorite composer and your favorite piece of classical music?” or “Who is your favorite writer and what is your favorite work of literature, as opposed to a bestselling book?”

    After all, it doesn’t take an elitist prig to know that if you like something popular, you’re stupid and maybe even a little trashy. While that might qualify you to give Bill Clinton your phone number, an American president should certainly know more about obscure art than say, Khaled Hosseini, Facebook or (gasp!) NASCAR!

    Wait! Actually, I think it does take an elitist prig to think that way.

    Posted by at 08:44 PM | Comments (2)     
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    February 05, 2008

    Who's in the bunker with you?

    [Posted by ]

    This morning on my way into work I heard a bit on the radio from Packers' radio announcer Wayne Larrivee. Larrivee imagined a scenario in which you were under fire in a bunker. What three current athletes would you want in that bunker with you? Larrivee chose Packers' receiver Donald Driver, Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios and Andres Nocioni of the Chicago Bulls.

    Who would I choose? Well, I want brains and brawn. I don't want chickens, but I also don't want a crazy gunslinger (sorry Brett Favre) that's going to get all of us killed. So, after careful consideration, here are my picks:

    Tiger Woods: This is an easy choice. First of all, Tiger's dad probably taught him some lessons from his time in 'Nam. Tiger is also the most mentally tough person in sports - there's no chance he'd crack under pressure. Plus, I think Woods would encourage me and the rest of my bunker mates to fight harder and be the best we can be. If I start freaking out, I can count on Tiger to slap me in the face and yell at me to "Snap out of it!"

    Angel Cordero: Cordero doesn't ride in horse races anymore, but he's still active in the sport as an exercise rider. I'd choose Cordero for two reasons. First, he's small and wouldn't take up too much room in the bunker. Second, he's a daredevil on hooves and is absolutely fearless. He's the guy we could send to sneak through enemy lines on the seemingly suicidal mission.

    Atari Bigby: Woods and Cordero bring mental toughness and fearlessness, but we still need some brawn. In addition to brawn, my bunker "team" needs someone who can follow orders. Bigby, a Green Bay Packers safety, is my guy. He's young, fast, athletic and likes to hit people. Hard. He can be a bit of a loose cannon, but that's okay - I don't mind that attitude in someone if they're not the leader.

    Who would you choose?

    Posted by at 09:18 AM | Comments (11)     
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    February 04, 2008

    The State of the Packers - 2008

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    Another season, another missed opportunity. That’s the only way to look at the 2007 Green Bay Packers. While 14 wins is always a good season, I thought this team would make the playoffs and thus the failure to get to the Super Bowl is a disappointment. Following a season like this there are two traditional ways a team usually goes: forward to the Super Bowl or totally out of the playoffs. Later this year we will see which route the Packers choose. On the positive side the Packers were clearly improved over last season. They were the better team in almost all their games with the exception of one of the Chicago games, the toss up in Dallas, and the NFC championship game. The Packers were outplayed and outcoached in every aspect of the game by the Giants in the championship, revealing all of the Packers’ weaknesses. Here’s my take:

    Management:

    I’ve always like Ted Thompson and so 2007 was sort of a vindication. The Packers have resisted trying the quick fixes of free agency and drafting by position under Thompson and that began to pay big dividends last season. Several of his draft picks and other acquisitions played important roles in last year’s team and 2008 will feature even more. The team is now out of the Mike Sherman era and can truly be called Thompson’s team.

    Unfortunately for Thompson it will actually be harder to resist the calls for free agent signings and positional draft picks after this seasons’ success. The temptation for many people after this past season will be to believe the Packers are just one player away from the Super Bowl, and thus there will be calls to pay big money for some particular free agent or to draft a specific player under the fiction that he can instantly be plugged into the team for a Super Bowl win. The reality is that the Packers could be improved at virtually every position and only by trying to improve everywhere will they get over the hump and into the Super Bowl. Thompson’s job will be to resist the calls for immediate action and continue to build the team for the long term. 2008 will be his biggest challenge to date. If he’s up to the challenge I will continue to be a Thompson supporter.


    Coaching:

    Like Ted Thompson, 2007 was vindication for Mike McCarthy. The Packers were generally well prepared and, more tellingly, were seldom outplayed in the second half. McCarthy and his staff were consistently able to analyze the opposition make adjustments at halftime that lead to victories.

    Offensively the Packers were the ultimate pragmatists: McCarthy abandoned whatever failed and stuck with whatever worked. At times this meant five wide receivers, at other times this meant two fullbacks in the backfield. The willingness to do whatever worked meant the Packers consistently exploited their opponents weaknesses. No more can be asked of coaching during a game.

    Defensively the Packers abandoned the zone defense and played man to man almost exclusively. This adjustment from 2006 better suited their players and led to far fewer defensive breakdowns in the secondary. This simple scheme was difficult for the rest of the league to deal with and was really only solved by Eli Manning, and then only by several absolutely perfect passes that he threw in the NFC championship. The defensive scheme that can stop the perfect pass has never been invented. Only a perfect pass rush can stop the perfect pass.

    The were only two negatives in the coaching department. One was the failure of the Packers to perform in poor weather. The only times the Packers looked unprepared coincided with bad weather and one has to question whether or not the two are related. The other was the NFC championship game. Offensively the Packers did nothing against the Giants and failed to make the necessary adjustments to change that. The Giants were able to stop the Packers all day long with a plain vanilla defense including stopping the run with only the front seven. While everyone will talk about how the players will react to the loss, this was this coaching staff’s first season of playoff experience, and how the coaching staff reacts to that loss, and what they learn, will be at least as important.

    Quarterback:

    Brett Favre had yet another good season and in spite of what all the pundits may claim his play was not dramatically different from the past years. The difference in his play was largely situational: the Packers trailed late in fewer games and thus there was less need for Brett to single handedly win the game. Favre remains one of only 3-4 quarterbacks in the NFC and one of only 8-10 in the league that can realistically be considered as capable of winning a Super Bowl and if he retires the Packers will instantly become favorites to miss the playoffs next year. If he returns he will have only one goal: a Super Bowl win.

    Aaron Rodgers remained the backup and this was both good and bad. In the little playing time he saw, Rodgers showed he was obviously improved over the past season and was capable of playing in the NFL, something that was previously in doubt. Unfortunately he also demonstrated that he was capable of suffering significant injury while seeing only limited playing time and this has to concern the Packers. Given Favre’s impending retirement and Rodger’s injuries expect to see the Packers acquire another potential quarterback of the future during the off season.

    Running Backs:

    Running back may be the only position at which the Packers are truly set, with a combination of talent and youth. The Packers featured Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency and DeShawn Wynn early in the season before settling on Ryan Grant as the featured back midway through the season. Grant ran with both speed and power, was comfortable with the Packers’ zone blocking scheme and protected the football. All that is left is for Grant to develop into a better receiver out of the backfield. If he can do this, Grant will be among the elite backs in the league for several years. Jackson played better as the season wore on and he will probably be the number 2 back next year. Morency and Wynn will likely fight it out for the 3rd spot, but Packers will be solid regardless of who wins that battle.

    At fullback the Packers used both Korey Hall and John Kuhn and appears that the Packers have finally found a couple of fullbacks capable of playing up the level that William Henderson did. This as much as anything was the reason for the emergence of the running game in the second half of the season.

    Receivers:

    At wide receiver the Packers have some serious decisions to make. While the Packers have NFL receivers in Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Ruvell Martin and Koren Robinson this is still a troubling position. The trouble is that the Packers really do not have a true number 1 receiver. Neither Driver nor Jennings are receivers that anyone feels compelled to double team, and while Jones showed sparks in his rookie year, he also showed poor hands. All three men disappeared completely in some big games. In addition none of these receivers have shown that they are “go to” guys who are always open on 3rd down. Others will disagree with me here, but I think this is a position where the Packers will have to say goodbye to at least one popular player in order to improve the team. The temptation for management will be to hold fast at wide receiver, but I would like to see them to try to improve here.

    At tight end Donald Lee took over for Bubba Franks and immediately the Packers went from being worst at tight end to in the top ten in the league. Lee is simply a far better receiver. Playing only part time, Bubba Franks play actually improved. Tight end is probably another position where the Packers have improved but could stand to get better still.

    Offensive Line:

    Last year I thought that the Packers offensive line play would be a key to this past season and that was the case. The younger trio of Spitz, Wells and Colledge all improved their play and they were joined by Junius Coston who stepped up and challenged for a starting guard spot. Their improvement was one the big reasons the team was able to run the ball in the second half of the season. At tackle Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton were both effective both in run blocking and pass coverage.

    This unit performed poorly against the Giants, but given the Patriots difficulty against the same defense that may have been an isolated case. Alternately, that game may be an indication that the line has a ways to go before they can effectively deal with the more physical defensive lines in the league. There were two plays that stood out in Champion ship game; both screen passes. The first was a screen deep in Giants territory that was the perfect play call right up until the point where three offensive linemen out in front of the runner failed to block the only defender capable of preventing a touchdown on the play. The second was on the Packers’ side of the field that also should have gone for a big gain but was run down from behind near the line of scrimmage when the line failed to account for pursuit. Both these plays were poorly executed by the offensive line and properly executed were potential game changers. Clearly there is room for improvement beyond increasing the strength of the linemen.

    Clifton and Tauscher are another year older. Tony Moll never challenged either of these two for a starting spot, and it may be that Darren Colledge will get a try at tackle given his difficulties at guard late in the season. Expect the Packers to look for long term help on the offensive line. People are forecasting a possible first round pick on a tackle, but given that the team has time to develop someone at this position I suspect the Packers will instead opt for a diamond in the rough in the later rounds.

    Defensive Line:

    There is good and bad news on the Packers defensive line. The good news is that the team has some depth here. The bad news is that the team lacks a true pass rusher after Aaron Kampman. At defensive end the team used Kampman and Cullen Jenkins, with KGB on passing downs. KGB has gone from being an every down player to a pass rushing specialist in the last year, and now even that must be called into question. I expect he will be gone next year. Jenkins was good against the run but did not develop into a pass rush threat and this was a disappointment. With only one end to rush the passer, it was easy for teams to focus their protection on Kampman. Developing another pass rushing end is probably the teams’ number one priority.

    At tackle the team used a committee including Ryan Pickett, Corey Williams, Johnny Jolly and Justin Harrell. Before he got injured, Jolly was surprisingly the team’s most effective tackle, and the only one capable of collapsing the pocket. The Packers were noticeably worse rushing the passer after his season ending injury. Pickett, although a favorite of many announcers, was only average against the run and provides no pass rush whatsoever. Williams will likely depart in free agency. Harrell, recovering from an injuring, played sparingly until Jolly got hurt and showed some signs of being a decent player. The Packers will be looking for improvement and consistency at the tackle position, so don’t be surprised if the starting duo becomes Jolly and Harrell by the middle of next season.

    Defensive line is a position much like receiver for the Packers. While they have players capable of playing at the NFL level, they are all similar to one another and an impact player anywhere along the line would greatly improve the team.

    Linebackers:

    At linebacker the Packers started AJ Hawk, Brady Poppinga and Nick Barnett. Barnett thinks he is a pro bowl caliber player but the reality is he needs to figure out how to have a bigger impact on games before that will be true. Hawk had a sophomore slump. While he was not a liability, he did not become the player his rookie season indicated he might. Hawk was reacting to what had already occurred on the field instead of what was about to occur far too often. He needs to play less tentatively to continue to develop into the player the Packers drafted in the 1st round. Poppinga was a pleasant surprise. While he is not athletic enough to ever be a superstar, he played much smarter and was seldom a liability on the field (accept as a blocker on the punting team, where he missed a couple of blocks resulting in turnovers). The only backup of note was Tracy White, who remains largely an unknown quantity.

    On a positive note, Barnett and Hawk are a good combination in the nickel defense. Both are athletic enough to cover players out of the backfield and can provide a pass rush on a blitz. Given that I think the league will trend towards more 3, 4 and 5 receiver sets, this is a big positive. All in all this was a group that would look better with a more effective pass rush.

    Secondary:

    The same secondary that got shelled for big plays routinely last year became a force with the abandonment of the zone defense. Only during the Dallas game did the zone consistently rear its’ ugly head and the results were predictable. The secondary was probably the Packers strongest unit in 2007.

    At corner the starters were the usual suspects Al Harris and Charles Woodson. Both were pro-bowl caliber players who consistently shut down opposing receivers. Any sort of a pass rush throughout the year would have made them look even better. Harris had trouble in the NFC Championship but it still took perfect passes and a total lack of pass rush to expose the trouble. After these two, the Packers remain weak at corner. Tramon Williams was probably the best of the rest, but he is still too raw to judge. Will Blackmon and Jarrett Bush got burned a little too often for my liking. Given that the Packers had success using four and five wideouts this year, we can expect to see other teams use spread offenses against them in the coming year. This fact, combined with the age of Woodson and Harris, makes it likely the Packers will expend a high draft pick on a defensive back.

    At safety the Packers finally found a starter in Atari Bigby. Bigby had some issues with stupid penalties, but ultimately was willing to hit receivers and tackle running backs. Both traits make it likely he will be starting at safety for several years. The other safety position is wide open. Nick Collins has wiffed on one too many arm tackles for anyone’s liking, and while Aaron Rouse showed some spark, he will need to make significant improvement for this position to be solidified. Safety is another position where the Packers can be expected to seek help.

    Special Teams:

    Dave Ryan had a second solid season at punter outside of the disastrous Chicago game. Ryan is consistent, and that probably is worth more than an extra yard on his average. Expect him to be back next season.

    Mason Crosby took over kicking duties and the Packers improved at kicker for the second year in a row. Crosby became a reliable kicker and was better on kickoffs than any Packer of recent years.

    The Packer coverage teams took a step back, I thought, last year. This may be due to the teams’ youth. The Packers often failed to maintain their lanes on kickoffs and as a result they were not as good as they could have been. This should be easily correctable, so I expect the Packers will improve in this area next year.

    The Packer return teams are better, but still have a ways to go before anyone will be afraid of them. The Packers have not had a true return threat since Allen Rossum left the team. Tramon Williams has excellent hands and showed some ability on both kick and punt returns. His improvement as a returner would greatly improve the team’s chances in close games and in the playoffs.

    Conclusion:

    The Packers obviously made a big leap this year. They went from 8-8 to 13-3 with a playoff win and berth in the NFC Championship game. Having done so, however, they now find themselves at a crossroads. While the Packers reached the NFC Championship game, they were clearly the inferior team, and they were inferior at enough positions that one must call into question the idea that they are only a slight improvement from being champions.

    The reality is that this team needs personnel improvements at receiver, offensive line, defensive line, safety, and kick returner. While some of that improvement may come from players already on the roster, it is likely that the Packers will have to part ways with some popular veterans to get over the hump.

    The first priority for 2008 will be convincing Favre to return. Favre will not play forever but for the Packers to have a chance next year he must come back. 2008 will probably be triumph or tragedy for the Packers and in either case it would be difficult to see Favre returning for another season after that.

    The second priority will be taking a long look at the available free agents. Defensive end and safety are probably the two positions where the Packers could spend some money in free agency and possibly improve the team, but outside of these positions, free agency is more likely to just bring the Packers players similar to what they already have.

    The final step will once again be the draft. Cornerback will become a priority as early as next year, so expect the team to look hard at the available corners in the draft. After that, help on both sides of the line is needed, as well as receiver, safety, a second tight end, etc… In short, the Packers have enough holes outside of running back and possibly starting linebacker that they need to take the best player available. If they can find some help in the draft, anything is possible in 2008.

    Finally, congratulations New York Giants. The Giants were clearly the best team throughout the playoffs so a Super Bowl win was well deserved. Beating the Cheatriots and shutting up that AFC homer Chris Collinsworth on HBO are bonuses that will hold the rest of us over till next season.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 09:51 AM | Comments (6)     
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    February 03, 2008

    The Big Four - In Their Own Words

    [Posted by ]

    With campaign 2008 down to the big four, at least for two more days, I'm underwhelmed. These are our choices? As I've said before, I can't get behind any of them. Rather than rehashing the "why" again, I thought I'd let the candidates speak for themselves:

    Hillary Clinton

    What she says:

    We are going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.

    What she means:

    I am a socialist.

    Barack Obama

    What he says:

    All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it's here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.

    What he means:

    My other religion is man-made global warming.

    John McCain

    What he says:

    But please know, whether you believe campaign contributions are speech or property, that I learned to love very dearly the right of free expression when I lived without that freedom for a while a long time ago.

    What he means:

    I was a POW, so you shouldn't be upset that I'm eroding your First Amendment rights

    Mitt Romney

    What he says:

    America's culture is also defined by the fact that we are a religious people. We recognize our God not only in our Declaration of Independence, but even in our currency. And we are also unique in that we recognize that the family is the fundamental building block of American society.

    What he means:

    I have no understanding of the political philosophy behind our Constitution

    As an aside, I actually had a hard time finding an offensive Obama quote. Whatever else you can say about the guy, he certainly has the rhetoric down. I quite liked this quote:

    We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States.
    Posted by at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)     
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