Tag Archives: Barack Obama

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.

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.

Dick Cheney Wheeling Out of Office

20 Jan

 

"I knew I should have let the butler take the box from Halliburton."

Cheney: "I knew I should have let the butler take the box from Halliburton."

Dick Cheney will be in a wheelchair as he leaves office today, due to pulling a muscle in his back while moving boxes into his new home in McClean, Virginia.

That Halliburton gold must be heavy.

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.

McDonald’s McCafe an Election Indicator

30 Sep

McDonald restaurants from coast to coast are introducing a McCafe line of espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes.  The McCafes are already active in 2500 McDonald’s, with over 14,000 units expected to serve them by the middle of 2009.  McDonald’s main purpose here is to add to their bottom line, but the willingness to expand into this market segment reveals a significant perceived shift in American society.  McDonald’s knows Red State America like no one else, making this move a key indicator in the 2008 Presidential Election. 

Twenty-five years ago the only people in the US drinking cappuccinos, espressos, and lattes lived in Seattle, Los Angeles, and the Northeast Corridor.  They were poets, gays, displaced Europeans, Ivy League elites, and girls whose Dads had sent them to Nice for the summer.  Things changed when Starbucks burst onto the national scene in the 1990’s, becoming the purveyor of foamy coffee, Italian slang, and alternative, non-threatening music.   Whether due to marketing, good coffee, or stratospheric sugar content, many Americans started drinking Starbucks-type concoctions.  In the third quarter of 2008, Starbucks sold over 2.0 billion dollars worth of coffee in the United States.  Those sales can’t have come in Blue States alone.

Naturally, McDonald’s wants a piece of the action.  It’s clear that the 29 billion-in-annual-US-sales behemouth has determined that the citizens of Wichita, Missoula, Gary, Little Rock, Davenport, and Cheyenne are ready to abandon their Chock Full o’Nuts tin cans for a McCafe Hazlenut Iced Latte.  If the mindset that governs our heartland’s most important drink of the day can be altered, then the thought process with which Americans choose their President can also evolve.

This mid-American transformation will extend right into the 2008 election.  McDonald’s is certain that their customer base (not exactly your Northeastern Liberal Elite Obama-types) will drink these foofy mega-coffees.  The Hangover is equally sure that this means the Red Staters are ready to expand their range of political thought.  Typical Republican scare tactics will fall short and “change” will rule.  Obama will carry some traditional Republican states and win.  McDonald’s tell us so.

Handicapping the Presidential Race

15 Sep

With 50 days to go before the election, the race for President remains hotly contested–and close.  Sure, you could bury yourself in MSNBC, CNN, and Fox for a non-stop slew of reporting on likely scenarios and probabilities of victory.  But there are analysts out there much sharper than the political pundits.  They’re the guys running the sports books.  Yes, ironically, you can actually gamble on the Presidential Election.

For those of you faint-at-heart or honest or sheltered, a sportsbook is a place that establishes odds and takes bets on various sporting contests.  It’s a big business, estimated at over $200 billion dollars annually across the planet, with the Super Bowl accounting for $7 billion in just one day.  The analysis that goes into establishing odds is no less intense (while probably being done more scrupulously) than what takes place on Wall Street.

A survey of three major online sports books reveals that Obama is a clear favorite:

Sportsbook.com:  Obama -150, McCain -110  (To win $100, one must bet $150 on Obama or $110 on McCain.)

BetUs.com:  Obama -130, McCain -110.     (To win $100, one must bet $130 on Obama or $110 on McCain.)

Bodog.com:  Obama -145, McCain +105  (To win $100, one must bet $145 on Obama and a $100 bet on McCain will bring in $105).

Odds are established so that an equal number of dollars are wagered on each side.  The sports book makes their money off of the vigorish–the gap between the two propositions.  The higher wager cost on Obama tells us that more people (their dollars, anyway) are betting on him to win.  By raising those odds, the bookmakers are hoping to slow down the action on that proposition, while encouraging people to go to McCain for a better payout. 

What the bookmakers are analysing here are the betting habits of Americans, not how economic issues may play out in Ohio or Sarah Palin’s cleavage will effect the voters of Florida.   They are revealing that “more people likely to gamble on a Presidential Election” think Obama will win.  Whether these “degenerates” are betting with their hearts or have spent the past three months sifting through historical voting data and current opinion polls cannot be known.  The Hangover just hopes that they are right.  My money–and yours, if you’re in the bottom 95% of income earners in America–is riding on it.

Obama Not Rolling Over

13 Jun

Barack Obama’s campaign has launched the site fightthesmears.com to combat the forces (read: the Republican WarCampaign machine) that made “swiftboating” a commonly used verb.   The Primary battle against Hillary, a bloody contest that dragged on like an extended version of “Night of the Living Dead: The Democrat’s Cut,” has taught Obama well.  While he might not be willing to run around the country yelling “Keating Five” and “senile, old bastard,” Obama’s not going to back down.   Gore and Kerry were gentlemanly in their quests, hardly ever showing outrage at Republican tactics, and look where it got them.

Of course, it’s one thing to put factual information out there and it’s another to get people to read it.  The Hangover fears that the citizens inclined to seek out the facts and truths about Obama are the same ones who are likely to vote for him anyway.  There’s also an “anti-intellectual” bent evident in much of the country, as if reading was this great super-cerebral activity.   Why actively seek out information when one can scan the front page of the Enquirer in the checkout line or flip a switch and listen to the bombast of drug addict Rush Limbaugh and his cronies?

Red state voting patterns of 2000 and 2004 indicate there are plenty of voters who prefer a candidate who appears to have never read a book, rather than contenders who have actually written one   (Sorry, but we refuse to give George W. Bush credit for My Pet Goat on 9/11/2001.)  While Gore and Kerrywere obviously more intelligent, they were not better campaigners than G. W. Bush.  Perhaps more forceful, less compliant Presidential bids would have served them (and us) better.

The Hangover takes fightthesmears.com as a good sign.  In schoolyard terms, Obama is not going to be handing over his lunch money to the Republicans this fall.  He doesn’t have to be a bully to win, but he can’t allow himself to be pushed around.  This new site is Obama rolling up his sleeves.