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The Hangover’s 2010 Person of the Year: Theo Epstein

22 Dec

The Hangover’s 2010 Person of the Year is Theo Epstein, General Manager of the Boston Red Sox.  It might seem odd for the Hangover to tout the GM of a baseball team when so many are doing so much in the world.  But Epstein did something that few others on the national stage have the intestinal fortitude (in the words of Gorilla Monsoon) to do:  Form a philosophy based on a set of beliefs and then stick to it, even when it is painful and unpopular to do so.    

When Epstein took over as GM of the Red Sox in 2003, he instituted an organizational approach based on player development, which could also be supplemented by key free agent acquisitions.   Prospects could be used as trade bait or to strengthen the major league team.   This strategy, Epstein maintained, would keep the Sox in contention most years.  It worked out okay in 2004, when the Sox won the World Series.  It also worked in 2007, when they won it again.

However, in 2006, Epstein briefly left the Red Sox because of interference from certain Sox higher-ups (read:  Larry Luchino) who wanted baseball decisions made with marketing and “buzz” impact in mind.  Only when owner John Henry worked things out so that Epstein could run the Sox his way, without interference, did Epstein come back to the team. Imagine that, a man with principles and integrity.  Many of The Hangover’s younger readers might not have heard of such a thing.

Which brings us 2010.  On the field, the year was a disaster for the Red Sox.  Injuries ravaged the team.  Important pitchers had sub-par seasons.  Some nights half of the lineup looked like they’d been called up from AA Portland.  Many pundits screamed that Epstein was short-changing Sox fans by playing young, unproven players and not going out and finding “major league” replacements.  Of course, they failed to realize that trading prospects for what would be overpriced “Band Aids” might hamstring the team for years to come.

By sticking to his philosophy, in the 2010 off-season Epstein was able to retool his team into one that is younger, more powerful, faster, better in the bullpen, and better defensively.  Sure, 2010 hurt; however, 2011 should be great (The Hangover is predicting an ’84 Tigers-type season).  But as we all know, (cliché alert) the games are played on the field, and (cliché alert) the games aren’t won on paper.  At least these moves should have the Sox challenging well into the future.  One can’t ask for more than that—unless, of course, you’re one of those living-in-Mom’s-basement, pre-2004 win-it-all-or-else fanatics.  If that’s the case, have another PBR and call WEEI. 

What sets Theo apart from just about every other public figure this year is that despite hardship, bad publicity, and public outcry, he stayed true to his vision.  He was willing to endure the slings and arrows of The Knights of the Keyboard, various talking heads, and countless knuckle-headed zealots.  This allowed him to place his organization on a course for long term success.  Has anyone in Washington heard of such a thing? 

Let’s compare Theo to some other public figures in 2010: 

President Obama sells out the public option of his health care plan before he even brings it to Congress.  His health care makeover creates more business for insurance companies, while claiming health care “should be a right for every American.”   The Hangover fails to see how that jibes. 

Obama then agrees to a tax cut (extending the Bush tax cuts) for the wealthiest 5% of Americans, despite saying, “I’m still opposed to it.”  The Hangover’s glad he’s not running the Sox.  Admittedly, it’s a compromise with Republicans so that unemployment benefits can be extended for two million other Americans.  Of course, Obama could have taken the fight to the airwaves and the American people.  Perhaps a populist outcry could have broken Republican opposition.  Coincidentally, it’s the five percent getting the break who contribute the most to presidential and congressional campaigns. 

Let’s not forget the Republicans and Tea-Partiers, who are intent on doing two things:  cutting the deficit and lowering taxes.  Enough said.

 President Obama recently stated: 

“We’ve got to make some difficult choices ahead when it comes to tackling the deficit. In some ways, this [tax cut deal/”compromise”] was easier than some of the tougher choices we’re going to have to make next year.”

No kidding, and with the integrity that Washington’s show this year, good luck with that.

Perhaps someone could invite The Hangover’s 2010 person of the year, Theo Epstein, to our nation’s capitol.  He might be able tell our leaders that it is important to form a set of values and beliefs based on thoughtful consideration, intellect, and logic.  Then he could reiterate the importance of maintaining that philosophy, even if it might not be popular to do so.  Perhaps he could introduce them to “long term planning” and “responsibility.”  If he shows them his shiny World Series rings, they might even listen. 

Then again, Theo Epstein’s biggest worry isn’t about getting re-elected.  He’s only trying to do what he knows is right.  And in 2010, that’s a singular quality.

Theo Epstein with the 2007 World Series trophy. Perhaps if our leaders in Washington knew they could get things like trophies as a reward, they might show some interest in long term planning.

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Susan Collins: PAC Money Makes Policy

1 Oct

Susan Collins opposes President Obama’s health care plan, particularly the public option.  The Hangover knows this because one of her staff was kind enough to tell me so in a recent phone conversation.   Consider me cynical.  When in a follow-up I asked the staff member how much campaign money Senator Collins has taken from the medical, insurance, and pharmaceutical lobbies, Collin’s mouthpiece told me that she didn’t have that information.   I wondered aloud if Collins didn’t know how much payola came from those sectors.   I was reassured that while the Collins’ staffer didn’t have that information, it was available at fec.gov, the Federal Election Commission’s website.  This excahnge followed:

The Hangover:  “Don’t you think Senator Collins should provide that (who she received campaign donations from) information?”

Collins  Staff Member:  “The information is available on the website, fec.gov, that I told you about.”

The Hangover:  “Don’t you think that withholding the information makes her look corrupt like all those other Republicans taking money from lobbyists?”

Collins Staffer:  “The information is available on the FEC website, sir.”

Before any Republicans think The Hangover is “profiling,” we heartily acknowledge that Senate Democrats take just as much money as the Republicans do from these lobbies.   That’s the problem.  (It’s no wonder that real health care reform is impossible:  Mandated business creation for insurance companies isn’t exactly health care reform.)

The Hangover took the staffer’s advice and checked out the FEC website.  The information was, indeed, there.  In fact, the report on Susan Collins’ accepted  campaign contributions for the 2007-2008 election cycle was disgusting.  What’s worse is that her tally reads similarly to those of her 99 Senate colleagues serving  “we the people.”  Collins’ list of contributors can be viewed here in it’s entirety, but there are some obvious highlights:

In the 2007-2008 election cycle, Senator Collins received expenditures of:

$26,000 from the American Association of Neurosurgeons PAC

$190, 530 from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons PAC

$14, 000 from Aetna’s PAC

$20,000 from the American Hospital Association PAC

$20,000 from AFLAC’s PAC (that’s the one with the duck)  

$18,000 from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield PAC

$1000from the Bluecross of Michigan PAC (???)

There are so many contributors listed, The Hangover doesn’t blame the Senator for not providing her staffers with the information.   They’d have to be MIT graduates to follow it. 

In terms of full disclosure, The Hangover gave nothing to Senator Collins’ campaign.  We find this is appropriate.  If any of Maine’s other 1.5 million residents believe that the Senator is looking out for their best interest, all they have to do is pull out their processed checks for the last few years.   It’s likely one is getting according to what one gave.

Best Songs for the Recession

13 Mar

The right music can help one survive this current recession.  No, these songs will not pay the bills or put cash in your pocket, but they can help a person deal with dwindling 401k’s and evaporating bank accounts.  Just because you can’t pay your mortgage doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Just crank the stereo up to eleven. To that end, the Hangover offers:

The Soundtrack to the Recession:    

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out  
by Eric Clapton
This is a blues classic written by Jimmy Cox in 1923 and revived by Eric Clapton on his 1992 MTV Unplugged appearance.   Spanning a time prior to the Great Depression through today, the song rings true. 
Pertinent lyrics:  It’s mighty strange, without any doubt/ Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.

I Hate Banks
by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper
Yep, let’s face it.  There aren’t many institutions more responsible for the bog we’re in than those greedy, unregulated banks.  The incomparable Mojo was on to them way back in the ’80’s.  We should have listened.
Pertinent lyrics:   Republicans, one and all/their tallywackers are mighty small.

 
Shattered
by The Rolling Stones
Of course, the center of the financial world is New York, New York.  And that is where the rot of our economy emanates from.   The Stones 1978 paean to the city presciently details the gangrene at its core. 
Pertinent lyrics:  Uh huh, this town’s full of money grabbers/go ahead, bite the big apple, don’t mind the maggots, uh huh.

Detroit Breakdown
by The J Geils Band
The American auto industry is in critical condition.   They can’t build good cars.  Design and production have slipped behind the rest of the world.   Then their corporate honchos take private jets to Washington to get reamed by Congress when begging for a bailout.  And yet, the J Geils band still wants to blow your face out.   Unlike the automakers, they’re still relevant.  
Pertinent lyrics:    Detroit breakdown/yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah/Motor City shakeown/yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Been Caught Stealing
by Jane’s Addiction
This one’s dedicated to Bernie Madhoff, kingpin of the largest Ponzi scheme in history.   One can only hope that his backside brings a fair price in Marlboros when introduced to the barter-and-trade prison economy.  
Pertinent lyrics:  We sat around the pile, sat and laughed/We sat and laughed and waved it into the air

Dazed And Confused
by Led Zeppelin
Nobody has any idea of what’s going on with our economy.  Not Jim Cramer, Barack Obama, Alan Greenspan,  Ben Bemanke, Warren Buffet, or any other expert one can name.   Don’t believe the bellowing; they don’t have any more of a clue than you do.  While Led Zep is actually singing about a woman, one needs to look for only the slimmest connection to see that it’s symbolically relevant here. 
Pertinent lyrics:    You hurt and abused tellin’ all of your lies/Run around sweet baby, lord how they hypnotize

I Hate the Rich
by The Dils
On sheer volume, no one is losing more money than the rich these days.  That’s one of the beautiful things about the recession:  It hurts us all.  Having to sell off a second vacation home can’t wound any less than getting kicked out of your house because you can’t pay the mortgage.  And it just has to kill to trade in a BMW for a Toyota.  The Dils reflect this attitude quickly and brilliantly.     
Pertinent lyrics:  I hate the rich/I hate the poor   

Takin’ Care Of Business
by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Unemployment is rising rapidly. Factories are closing. Businesses of all types, from the Washington Redskins to CITI, are laying off and cutting back. Soon enough, people won’t even have enough money to eat at fast food restaurants, and then the only growing sector of our economy–the service industry–will stagnate, too. BTO offers a positive life plan for those without employment: Doing nothing.
Pertinent lyrics: Look at me I’m self-employed/I love to work at nothing all day/And I’ll be…/Taking care of business every day/Taking care of business every way.

Can’t Buy Me Love
by The Beatles
So, you don’t have any money. Neither does anyone else. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have what’s important in life: Sex. Put away those miserable banks statements, go out, and hook up. Why not?
Pertinent Lyrics: I don’t care too much for money/Money can’t buy me love

Chocolate Cake
by Crowded House
It’s possible that one might feel bad about having to cut back on personal spending, unneeded opulence, and gluttony. Stop the self pity. This Crowded House song, a biting satire on the fat-and-happy American way of life, will make you glad you gave it all up–even if it wasn’t by choice.
Pertinent lyrics: Now the excess of fat on your American bones/Will cushion the impact as you sink like a stone

Bank Robber
by The Clash
The singer’s father is a bankrobber who “never hurt nobody.” That can’t be said for those running the banking industry today–or for the numbskulls who took on mortgages that a molecule of common sense would have told them were criminally unrealistic. But as the Clash point out, we’re facing worse challenges.
Pertinent lyrics: The old man spoke up in a bar/Said I never been in prison/A lifetime serving one machine/Is ten times worse than prison

Low Budget
by The Kinks
Ray Davies was one of rock’s first socially conscious songwriters. He remains one of the best. Back in the ’70’s Davies rocked the cycle of economic calamity. His advice: Cut back and draw a pint. We’ll get over it.
Pertinent Lyrics: Money’s rare, there’s none to be found/So don’t think I’m tight if I don’t buy a round.

The George W. Bush Years: Retrospective and Legacy

12 Jan

Most of those analyzing George W Bush’s years as President will offer a legacy of questionable decisions, confusing policy, and abject failure.  But the evaluation of any administration should be rooted in actual results.   A historical comparison reveals that the Bush years might not be the disaster they seem.

I, George W

Both conservative and liberal media have hammered aspects of George W Bush’s reign, including the war in Iraq, economic disparity, unwarranted firing of federal judges, increasing national debt, the failure to capture Osama Bin Laden, etc..,.   The list could continue until my hands cramped.  However, if the W. Bush presidency is looked at through the prism of the Roman Emperor Claudius (10BC-54AD), the subject of Robert Graves’ seminal historical novels I, Claudius  and Claudius the God, one realizes that Bush may deserve more credit than he is generally given.

Parallels between Claudius and George W are evident.  Claudius was a stammering, afflicted member of a royal family who considered him unsuitable for governing.  George W also possesses a certain lack of grace with spoken language.  And while Claudius was left to study history (a laughable undertaking for a “royal”) at the outskirts of his family, George W founded several oil exploration companies, all funded by family and friends, all of which lost money.  Bush persevered, however, and was elected Governor of Texas.  He then won the presidency in an unlikely manner, as it was his opponent who had garnered the most votes.  In his ascension, Claudius was named Emperor by Palace Guards just hours after Caligula, the sitting Emperor, was stabbed to death.  It helped that Claudius was the last surviving member of the ruling line. 

Claudius, however, had little desire to be Emperor.  He hoped for a restoration of the Roman Republic over the dictatorship that his family had engineered two generations earlier.  According to Graves, Claudius had a plan to insure that restoration.  He would govern so poorly that the Roman Senate would have no choice but to rise and re-establish the Republic.  Instead, Claudius found an assemblage who for the most part did not care how they were governed as long as there was money to be made and food to eat.  Although Claudius ultimately failed to reinstate the Republic, his attempt was a noble one.   

George W implemented a similar strategy.  His head-scratching, imperial governing was no accident.  Instead of letting corporate interests and the moneyed elite rule in perpetuity, Bush hoped to incite the average American to reclaim the rights and powers that the Founding Fathers had bestowed him.  Every move was designed to force the masses into action.  Perhaps because of the incessant heat or a mediocre educational system, Florida wasn’t able to help George W achieve his goal in ‘04.  But after four more years of effort, Bush seems to have succeeded. We are only days away from the Obama Administration.

Clearly, George W took it upon himself to return our Democratic Republic to the people.  It is the only way that his actions make sense:  Reading The Pet Goatto school children for seven minutes after finding out the country was under attack; misleading the country into an unneeded and unwanted war; positing the executive branch above the legislative and judicial; practically ignoring one of our greatest cities in the aftermath of a natural disaster.  If not to cultivate outrage and force the American public into responsible action, then why?  George W went into his Presidency with a plan and he executed it well.  The citizenry demanded change. Mission accomplished, indeed.    

(This post contains updated content from a previous Hangover post.  Enjoy the encore presentation.)

The Hangover’s Christmas List

21 Dec

You’ve got to love a holiday named after a wine-swilling, long-haired, no-shoes-wearing carpenter.  And there are presents.  In honor of the holiday, The Hangover offers our own Christmas list.  And in the true spirit of the holiday, it is better to give than receive. 

For Terrel Owens:  A punch in the mouth. You’d think that Tony Romo or Jason Witten or somebody on that team would have had the balls to tell TO to shut up and then drop him with a right cross.  (Is Bum Phillips still alive?  Could he take care of this for Wade?)

For the State of Maine:  Less Taxes, Better Government.   We know, good luck with that one.

For Religous Extremists (be they Christian, Muslim, Pagans, Jews, Sun-Worshippers, Followers of Satan, or actual card carrying members of Red Sox Nation):  Less scripture, More action (from their respective deities).  Doesn’t fanatical worship sully the very God that it profess to follow?  Wouldn’t these various Gods be tired of people acting like complete fucking idiots in their names?  Shouldn’t  these Gods have had enough of this bullshit and smite their “extreme” followers from the planet?  Lightning bolts, now, goddamnit!

For The Boston Celtics:  Good Health.  The rest will take care of itself.

For Kathryn Tappen:  More sweaters of the shade (some sort of yellowish white) that she wore yesterday during the 12/20/08 Bruins-Hurricanes telecast.  Amazing.  A high-def Goddess if there ever was one.

For Barack Obama:  The cajones to swing back to the left after these mandatory first two years of centrism.

For Kennebunkport:  Less Development.  Do we have to turn every open space not owned by the Conservation Trust into either a neighborhood of McMansions or a psuedo-tony resort?

For the Red Sox Marketing Team:  A long, long, long vacation.  Two years ought to be enough.  We don’t need any hats with socks on them.  We could use a better ticket-buying site, however.  Or at least one that doesn’t have to blame its lack of functionality on “high transaction volume.”  What with the exciting new hats, you didn’t think people would want to buy tickets, too?

For the Red Sox:  Derek Lowe.  Give us a great pitcher who excels in big games, under pressure, and who wants to play here.  And we’ll take a refurbished Mike Lowell, too.  The hell with Mark Teixeira.  The only thing he’s led the league in is “Speculative news media stories on where Mark Texiera will land.”  Pitching wins and Lowe is a winning pitcher.

For News Editors of Television Weather Reports:  A grip.  Hangover Headquarters is in Maine.  It snows here.  It always has.  Every time a flake hits the atmosphere, we don’t need panicked, poker-up-the-ass anchor people screaming “storm warning,” “winter storm watch,” or “extreme weather event.”  If you want people to watch your insipid newscasts, try doing some actual reporting, or get better looking newspeople and have the women go topless and dress the men in Chippendale’s outfits.

For the Rolling Stones:  One last great album. I don’t mean pretty good, either.  Voodoo Lounge was compared to Exile, but we all know Exile, and Voodoo Lounge is no Exile.  Every Stones album since Steel Wheels has been proclaimed in one way or another, hearkening back to the heyday of the Stones.  Simply not true.  The world could use another Exile on Main Street or Sticky Fingers.  Get on it, boys.

For the Readers of The Hangover:  Less hangovers, of the alcohol-induced head ache and vomiting kind.

For The Hangover:  More readers.  Then I can start pimping out the ad space and earn enough money to quit one of my days jobs.   Then I could completely sell out and turn into one of those despicable, loathsome individuals that I despise.  Wouldn’t that be grist for some interesting writing?

Bail This Out

8 Dec

The Federal bailouts that began with the Savings and Loans during the George HW Bush Administration, touched down with the airlines after 9/11, threw 85 billion to AIG, then shoveled 700 billion to save our vaunted Financial Institutions, have now come to a three-way pile up on American automakers.   When the country’s leading capitalists are landing in Washington on a weekly basis asking for cash to keep their industries afloat, something’s wrong.  The United States and capitalism are supposedly merit-based institutions, or at least they used to be.  The Hangover asks:  Why is abject failure being rewarded?

Understandably, these financial institutions and industries need to stay viable or millions of Americans will be out of work or out of their homes.   That can’t happen.   But bailout dollars shouldn’t be handed over so that a sinking-into-the-muck status quo can be maintained.   When the AIG executives got their money, they spent nearly half a million dollars at a Califroina spa playing golf, stuffing their faces, and getting massages.  Will those running the auto industry and financial institutions prove to be so different? 

President Elect Obama stated:

“We have to have an auto industry that understands they can’t keep on doing things the same way.  If this management team that is currently in place doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation, and is not willing to make the tough choices and adapt to these new circumstances, then they shoud go.” 

But Obama has it backwards.  You don’t give the reward first and then demand the behavior.  Like spoiled children, our greatest capitalists need strict boundaries and discipline.  The Hangover proposes two simple “conditions” for companies who want “bailout” money.  If they’re willing to comply, they get their dollars.

Of course, some may say that these proposed conditions smack of socialsim.  But it’s exactly what the industries are asking for.  Give the capitalists what they want.

Common Sense Election Anaylsis

5 Nov

There are a number of reasons that Barack Obama won the Presidency yesterday, receiving more votes than any candidate in history.  Most of them are fairly obvious. 

  • George W. Bush was a really bad president.  Certainly, John McCain suffered from his party and policy affiliations with the current President, just as the majority of people suffered under his administration–unless, of course, you were in the top 1% of income earners, worked for or invested in Big Oil, or were on the Board at Halliburton or Blackwater.
  • John McCain was a lousy campaigner.  McCain’s best moments of the entire election cycle were his QVC skit on Saturday Night Live, his Monday Night Football Interview with Chris Berman, and his concession speech.  His best debate line, “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago,” would have hit harder than a wet sponge if he hadn’t spent the last six months trying to maintain his Party’s base by highlighting his belief in Bush policies. 
  • Barack Obama really connected with the people.  He was a great speaker.  He had a clear message which he delivered with charisma, focus, and detail.  It worked.
  • The Republicans failed to scare the electorate as they did in 2004.  They were unable to generate a polarizing social issue such as “gay marriage” which carried Ohio for Bush in 2004.  In fact, due to the economic collapse, more Americans were frightened of losing their jobs and homes than they were by lame Republican attempts to portray Obama as a socialist, Muslim, terrorist, or–holy cow–a liberal. 
  • Religion, a huge component of Bush’s 2000 victory, became less of an issue.  After eight years of Bush-Cheney international and economic disaster, maybe the good Christian voters began to realize that God wasn’t actually a Republican diety. 
  • Obama ran a clean campaign, and after two elections of Bush-Rove tactics, it appears that a more positive message resonated with voters.  As CBS News reported:  “Nearly every TV ad McCain ran last week was negative, compared to just 34 percent of those by Obama, according to an analysis by the Wisconsin Advertising Project released on Wednesday. “
  • When a candidate moves from who-they-really-are to who-they-think-they-need-to-be-to-get-elected, they lose.  Reagan was an ultra-conservative.  Bill Clinton was a centrist.  George W Bush was a God-fearing jughead.  Obama is a liberal (Apparently, not such a bad thing these days).  The 2000 John McCain didn’t court the Religious Right, employed an independent, critical thought process, and wouldn’t have stood for the type of negative campaigning that Bush-Rove used to sink McCain’s 2000 bid.  That all changed in 2008, and the results speak for themselves. 

Other Election Highlights:

  • Last night, the Fox News Channel crew looked and acted like a bunch of six year-olds who raced down the stairs only to find coal in their stockings.  Boo hoo.   Waaaaaaaaw.
  • Ben Affleck’s Keith Olbermann skit on SNL (perhaps the best episode of SNL since the glory days of the Belushi era).
  • The Hangover finally voted for a Presidential Candidate who won.  (It’s the first time since 1980, and that was a mistake.  Hey, I was a binge-drinking teenager at the time.)
  • The Hangover is still trying to remove John Edwards’ populist hook from his mouth, firmly planted during the primary season.  Only a true douche bag could have campaigned “for-the-people” while knowing that an affair with the biggest coke slut of the 1980’s was waiting to come tumbling out of the closet.  What if his message (which was a good one) had caught on?
  • Anne Curry delivers good news:  anytime, anyplace, but especially on MSNBC’s election night dressed in all black:
anne-curry3

Maybe the mainstream media isn't so bad, after all.