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obama “outraged” with wright’s comments

29-Apr-08

from the article:

In his harshest criticism yet of his former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama said he was “outraged” by Wright’s comments at the National Press Club Monday, and “saddened by the spectacle.”

personally, i’m guessing that wright chose to fall on his sword to a degree — to get out there and make comments so outrageous that obama would have an opportunity to really put some distance between them. obama has been less than forthcoming about all this, i think. and i have to admit that the people who can’t understand why he stuck with the church have somewhat of a point. i know that church does not equal pastor, and there’s a new pastor now, and you should be going to church for the institution more than the personalities involved.

still. maybe this will precipitate a clean break between the two. let’s hope so.

in any case, better sooner (now) than later (october). there’ll always be a percentage of people unable to separate the two in their minds. hopefully this will mitigate the damage that’s been done.

i want that small squidgy thought floating in the back of my mind — “perhaps hillary is more electable after all” — crushed mercilessly.

update: just remembered what this was — obama’s sister souljah moment.

what’s going on in the white house?

24-Apr-08

from swampland, a blog at time.com, via the washington post, comes a story about the decision to torture detainees:

Nineteen of those documents were withheld from disclosure specifically because the Bush administration decided they are covered by a “presidential communications privilege,” according to the filings, made in federal court in Manhattan. Some were “authored or solicited and received by the President’s senior advisors in connection with a decision, or potential decision, to be made by the president.”

which raises the question: if they can do that stuff when everyone’s watching them like a hawk, what’s going on at the white house when everyone’s attention is on the election?

ricketts [glen state park] rankings

23-Apr-08

kirk and i spent three nights at ricketts glen state park in north central pennsylvania this past weekend through tuesday.

what an incredibly awesome place. we’ve been before, but this time we especially enjoyed every minute of the peace and quiet, especially on monday night, when we were the only campers in the park. and the cell phones don’t work there. love that.

we took advantage of the empty time to take a look at the campground, figure out the camping spots we liked, and picked a top 5. our positive criteria were seclusion, beauty, and space. negatives we looked for included being too near or (especially) at the end of a road (headlights in the tent — not good), being too close to the road in general, and close proximity to the bathrooms (too much noisy foot traffic). we labeled the ones we liked with “y” (for “yes”) and appended a “-” for a decent site with some problems, a “+” for great sites, and an “!” for the outstanding sites. our top five sites are all “y!” sites.

your criteria may differ from ours. if so, check out the details of the individual sites and plan accordingly. kirk took pictures of the sites we liked — they’re coming soon.

here’s a page where you can download a map of the campground, so you can play along at home.

there are two camping areas in ricketts glen: the big loop (sites 1-73) and the small loop (sites 74-120). the small loop sites are all knocked out of serious contention immediately. none of them border the water, some of them (sites 80-93) allow pets (no pets allowed in the big loop), and they are very crowded with no buffer zones to speak of. we gave three small loop sites a “y-” ranking: sites 101, 108, and 115. but they are strictly a fall-back position, in case the big loop is completely full. if the big loop is full, and these sites are gone, certainly there’s enough positive features at the park to still come. but it’s going to be packed with people, and you’re likely to have a less than optimal experience.

for the big loop, i’ll list only the sites that got “y-” or better. the sites not listed got knocked out for the aforementioned reasons.

big loop “y-” sites:

3, 5, 17, 23 (17 + 23 close to bathroom but big), 27, 33, 46 (27, 33, 46 at end of road, but on water), 49, 52, 54.

big loop “y” sites:

7, 9, 24, 26 (campground host site, near entrance), 34, 35, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 57, 71, 72, 73. all but 42, 44, and 71 are on or near water. 57 is at the end of a road but is so spectacular that it loses the minus.

big loop “y+” sites:

5, 20, 22, 29, 31, 56, 66. all but 5 on the water.

big loop “y!” sites:

21, 36, 37, 59, 61, 64, 65. there’s nothing wrong with any of these, in our estimation. site perfection.

and for the top five — again, culled from the “y!” sites:

#5 — site 64. at the end of a road, on the water, huge with no near neighbors.

#4 — site 59. secluded, on the water, huge surrounding area.

#3 — site 36. at the end of a road, on the water, huge, only site we saw with a constructed tent platform.

#2 — site 21. huge, on the water, secluded. the best part about this site is that the area behind the site drops down to the water, and then there’s a shelf right by the water. so you can sit by the water, and no one can see you. spectacular.

and the #1 site — #37. the huge site drops down from the road, so you are hidden from everyone else. and you have an enormous peninsula you share only with site 36, with water views on three sides.

there you go — our subjective opinions, explained. what do you think? leave a comment if you disagree, or have experiences to share.

unsolicited recommendation: salvatores of soho

13-Apr-08

had dinner at salvatores of soho on friday night. the name’s a bit misleading — the restaurant isn’t in soho. it’s in riverdale. maybe salvatore is from soho, and he came to riverdale to open a restaurant. not sure.

anyway.

they have excellent basic red-sauce italian food. great pizza. a well-planned menu with lots of variety. and they deliver it all. we’ve been a few times before, for basic stuff. so far, a solid neighborhood option, but perhaps not worthy of an unsolicited recommendation.

but we splurged a bit on friday night, taking a chance on some more expensive entree specials. three things shoved them over the edge, to the point where i’m flogging them on my blog:

» amazing specials. on friday i had a whole grilled bronzino with a rosemary sauce. i’d never had this mediterranean fish before, but man was it good. i like a fish roasted whole, head and skin on and bones in, because it keeps the fish moist and delicious like no other cooking method, if done correctly. and this was the best whole grilled fish i’d had in ages. it rivalled anything i’ve ever had at uncle nick’s on 9th avenue in midtown manhattan, which is mecca for a grilled fish. kirk had a broiled steak with mushroom sauce, which was equally as wonderful.

» great staff. welcoming, professional, prompt, every single person genuinely concerned with my total experience. they all enjoy what they are doing, and it shows.

» byob. they don’t have a liquor license, so you look at the menu, grab a bottle of wine from down the street, bring it back, and they serve it with no corkage fee.

total bill with tip was $50, which is about as much as you could possibly spend here. it’s a mixed crowd — half of the tables are families eating meals and bringing wine, like us, and the other half are tables of college students splitting pizzas. two could eat well and comfortably here for $20. but any money you spend here is well spent, and everything on the menu is an incredibly good value for the money, even the more expensive entrees. they definitely have kitchen staff that knows what they are doing.

we’ll be back.

a lot.

for the specials.

unsolicited recommendation: orsay on 75th & lex

28-Mar-08

had dinner last night at orsay, in new york city on 75th st. and lexington avenue.

i’m usually not one to venture onto the upper east side of manhattan. the transportation is awkward if you live on the west side, which we do. the extreme upper west side. but last night, kirk chose this restaurant to celebrate his raise and new title at work.

so i schlepped.

and i’m glad i did. the a la carte menu looked great, especially the blanquette de veau, and a beef cheek special. but they had a prix fixe “surprise”, which intrigued. for $38, you got a surprise appetizer, a surprise entree, and a surprise dessert. you could tell them “fish or meat” for the entree, and of course let them know if you had allergies and whatnot. but other than that, you were flying blind. we went for it, and asked for wine pairings to accompany.

the appetizer was a chicken terrine, wrapped in smoky bacon and studded with vegetables — i remember mushrooms and carrots. accompanying the terrine was a frisée salad with small potatoes and bacon. both were wonderful, both separately and together. the wine was a chablis — i remember it being very buttery, though not sure of the name. i was very proud of myself for figuring out the wine tasted buttery; i usually can’t tell these things and when the sommelier gave us that assessment unprompted, i was amazed.

the entrée was a pork porterhouse with a dipping sauce that had tiny julienned cornichons, and frites. that’s french fries, to you and me. the porterhouse was incredible — it had been brined well and cooked to perfection, with a crispy exterior while still tender inside. and the fries were sensational, as only fries cooked twice and perfectly can be. the perfect combination of salt, heat, and grease. yummy. the wine was a great merlot.

dessert was good, but not great — a kind of ice cream cake with sliced bananas on top and chocolate sauce brushed underneath. it got better as the ice cream softened a bit. the dessert wine to accompany was of course very sweet and fruity, and i liked it quite a bit even though i’m not much for sweet wines. i remember it was from the south of france, but no more details than that.

espresso with a nice belgian chocolate finished the evening.

the service was very french — completely attentive and friendly in the way it should be. wait staff were personable, helpful, and witty but not obsequious and pushy. everyone knew their role and executed exactly as they should have. in fact, our waiter guided us away from a la carte and toward the prix fixe, even though the former would have been a bigger check for him. good thing we listened — the chef was transitioning from the winter menu to the spring menu next week, so our dishes were a sneak preview of the spring menu items. our food definitely drew attention from the many regulars sprinkled about.

in all, a great experience — all pluses and no minuses. we’ll be back.

comment of the day

27-Mar-08

from an obama/clinton story on talking points memo:

“Blocking revotes in MI and Fla.” Lol! I just love this mindless talking point.

Where did he acquire the power to stop the Michigan and Florida legislatures from passing laws and/or the state parties from submitting workable delegate selection plans to the DNC? Is this like a legal power granted to him by virture of his being the front runner by some previously unknown laws passed in those states? Or is it a superpower he acquired after he was bitten by a radioactive Diebold voting machine? Is it a magical power? Is he using a +4 Staff of Disenfranchisement against poor Hillary?

and even more:

He’s beaten her. He beat her fair and square. She had a flawed, inflexible, and arrogant electoral plan, he identified the flaws in that plan early on and took advantage of them. She was unable to adapt and now she can’t turn it around. The superdelegates are not going to overturn the results of the delegate race, Michigan and Florida have screwed themselves, and the voters in the ten remaining states are not going to give her the 70 – 30 victories in each and every congressional district that she has to have to pull even with him in the popular vote and delegate races.

comment of the day? hell, it’s the diatribe of the year.

classic wonkette snark

25-Mar-08

i love reading wonkette.com. the attitude is a perfect antidote to boring and conventional political coverage

here’s an excellent example of why.

obama’s new strategy?

25-Mar-08

i’ve wailed and moaned for obama to get tougher. it seems that he has.

the last couple of news cycles have seen a steady ramp-up of stories about how hillary clinton outright lied “misspoke” about her trip to bosnia with sinbad and sheryl crow.

a clinton obfuscating a prevarication? who knew?

nice to note that the obama campaign pushed this story, and the press picked up on it, and there’s no blowback to the obama campaign itself. nice to note also that hillary was at no point in any danger, despite her protestations to the contrary. we gotta keep her safe, so obama can ignore her for the v.p. slot but use her strategically to get out the fall vote.

now that’s how you get elected.

more obama miscues

21-Mar-08

last i checked, i was musing about obama getting control of his message. not sure it’s gotten any better.

first we have the whole “rev. wright” business. an astute politician, or a worthy adviser to that politician, should have seen this coming a mile away. and should have worked in advance to negate the effect, or had plans in place to blunt it immediately. as it was, he seemed blindsided.

yes, the subsequent speech on race was brilliant. could turn out to be a political recovery for the ages. the rapturous media response may help obama’s “wright” problem, though his subsequent foot-in-mouth moment about “typical white people” doesn’t help. and i’m not sure that long oratory lends itself to this era of “sound-bite” politics.

and this latest staged leak of the photo of clinton and rev. wright is about as clumsy and heavy-handed as you can get.

i know it seems like i’m dumping all over obama. i think he’s still the best choice, and has unlimited potential for improving this country like no one else can. today’s news cycle (the passport mess, and the bill richardson endorsement) is certainly more favorable.

but i think there needs to be an experienced, hard-nosed old-style pol installed near the top of the hierarchy.

update:
to clarify my thoughts on the clinton/wright picture: good idea, poor execution. no way this should have been traceable to the campaign.

update update:
and now there’s this. the obama campaign finally starts playing a bit of hardball. maybe there’s hope for hope.

barack obama’s speech on race

18-Mar-08

from the speech:

This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.

what a beautiful turn of phrase. isn’t that what our goal should be?

a more perfect union?

slam him all you want for being vapid. we need someone uplifting about now.

random thoughts on the upcoming depression

17-Mar-08

i’ve lived long enough now to have seen the economy rise and fall a few times.

and i’ve seen relatively isolated crises averted. a mostly contained sector of the economy, as with the savings and loan crisis. or one large company, as with the long term capital management hedge fund collapse.

but this latest business seems endemic, with tentacles reaching into every sector of the economy. add in americans’ insatiable appetites for stuff and fun and fiscal irresponsibility, funded by chinese investment in our country, and it seems like a recipe for disaster. the bear stearns bailout is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

here’s one thought about the bear stearns bailout:

This is the most radical change and expansions of Fed powers and functions since the Great Depression: essentially the Fed now can lend unlimited amounts to non bank highly leveraged institutions that it does not regulate.

great. our taxpayer dollars going into a bottomless hole over which the government has no control, with no end in sight.

and here’s another sobering thought:

The people who made tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 5 years are not at risk for those earnings. If shareholders and managers are bailed out, we’ll have privatized the profits (false profits based on loans that were clearly bad) and socialized the losses. We will have rewarded the people who manipulated the financial system, at the expense of ordinary consumers.

oh, ok. so our tax money isn’t really going into a bottomless pit. it’s going into the pockets of the people who created the mess, and profited from it, in the first place. big-time republican donors, no doubt.

and finally, this
:

Maybe it’ll turn out that all this Wall Street stuff is just less important than we think it is,” he says. Let’s hope so.

“this Wall Street stuff” is what passes for pensions these days in America.

that’s your 401k going down the drain for the foreseeable future. still think we should privatize social security?

maybe i’m being too pessimistic. maybe i’m just older and more aware of things now.

but this situation has me scared.

update: if all that’s not enough, read this article and the comments as well. excellent summary of the problem, with knowledgeable folks chiming in. there’s no end in sight here.

unsolicited recommendation: schwinn 431 elliptical trainer

14-Mar-08

kirk and i have been paying way too much money for bally gym memberships for years and years. when we go, which is sporadically at best, the only machine we really use is the elliptical cross trainer. sometimes some weight machines, but generally just the cross trainer.

we have to go to the gym in the mornings, and because we have to be to work at 8:00, that means leaving the house at 5:30 or so — that’s why we’re rarely at the gym. so, in the interest of both saving money and exercising more regularly, we decided to let our memberships lapse and buy an elliptical cross trainer for our apartment.

after consulting some reviews on amazon and checking out consumer reports, we decided on the schwinn 431 elliptical trainer. it was free shipping and $100 off, making the final cost $699 with no sales tax.

that’s less than one year of gym for one of us.

the item arrived several days ahead of schedule. the assembly instructions were clear and easy to follow, the assembled unit is built like a tank, and there’s very little difference between this machine and the models you find at the gym. it feels solid, is ergonomically comfortable, and is a breeze to use. there are lots of preprogrammed routines, or you can go freestyle. it has a heart monitor (though only on the stationary handlebar, a minor gripe), a fan to keep you cool, forward and reverse motion, and is compactly built.

so far, with the exception of the heart monitor, i have no complaints whatsoever. it’s a product i’d highly recommend.

spitzer: working out for the best?

11-Mar-08

so if spitzer resigns, as is expected, david a. paterson is next in line.

seems like a good guy with a long record of accomplishment who might not otherwise have gotten a chance to show his chops in an arena like this
.

maybe this all works out for the best. here’s hoping that david paterson surprises some folks.

oh hai, what’s up?

11-Mar-08

not much.

i’m just transferring money via shell accounts so that i’ll have a credit balance with the madam that runs my hooker.

what’s up with you?

grilled chicken caesar, with tilapia and perch

10-Mar-08

enjoying my stouffer’s lean cuisine grilled chicken caesar for lunch today, looking at the box, and reading the ingredients, when i see this:

stouffer's lean cuisine grilled chicken caesar

let me zoom in for you:

stouffer's lean cuisine grilled chicken caesar

putting aside the misspelling of tilapia, it’s not very appetizing to use fish gelatin for the pasta (not sure why pasta needs gelatin anyway?) in a dish of grilled chicken caesar.

ick.

hey obama, get control of your message

07-Mar-08

way too many people are going off the reservation in the obama campaign.

we’ve had the guy talking to the canadians about nafta. hillary, of course, did the same thing, but that’s not my concern here.

then this samantha power person called hillary a monster and had to resign
.

now we find out that she told the bbc that obama might waffle on the troop withdrawals:

He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator…. You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009…

good lord.

say what you want about hillary (and most of what i say is bad), but at least she and all of her people are rigidly disciplined, on message, and on the same page. even if what they have to say is odious, at least it is coordinated.

obama himself may have pretty good message discipline, but his people are all over the map.

his campaign is starting to look like amateur hour, coinciding with the first real pressure he’s faced as a candidate.

they need to get professional, and fast.

update: mark halperin at time magazine addresses this very subject.

i used my $40 dtv converter box coupon

06-Mar-08

kirk and i have an hdtv, but it’s an older model and doesn’t have a built-in tuner. it’s just a monitor. so without paying for cable, we’ve never been able to get a television signal. no cable, no signal, no tv. and since we dropped cable about a year ago, the only things we’ve used the tv for was netflix rentals and playing with the wii.

with the upcoming broadcast conversion from analog to digital, the government is providing $40 coupons to buy a converter box. my tv doesn’t have a tuner, so i wasn’t sure if it would work or not. what the hell, right? so i sent off for my $40 coupon, and used it to buy the converter box. total price was $60, so my net cost was $20. i bought an indoor amplified antenna as well, for $40, so total out of pocket expense was about $60, or half the price of one month of cable.

hooked it all up last night. i figured if it didn’t work, i’d take it all back. no harm, no foul.

wow.

it all works brilliantly. not only do i have television, but the converter box has widescreen capability, so the digital picture fills in the entire widescreen. it’s not true hd, but the resolution is just fine — comparable to watching a dvd, probably. and the indoor amplified antenna pulls in 21 stations. some you’ll never watch — there’s one channel that’s just a cam set up in times square, some spanish-language stuff, and what-not, but for a one-time $60 payment i can now watch the networks and other local stations. and there’s great sound coming from my stereo and a great digital picture on my hdtv.

i’m still not going to watch that much tv — i like not knowing who flunked the lie detector when asked questions about their wife, or if i’m smarter than a fifth grader, or whatever. but i can watch the news, and keep up with the election, and whatnot, and that’s a good thing.

thanks, government. you got it right this time.

Barack Hussein Obama…and other Semitically Named American Heroes

27-Feb-08

a wonderful article investigates, with elegance, erudition, and wit, the origins of barack hussein obama’s name.

from the article:

Now let us take the name “Hussein.” It is from the Semitic word, hasan, meaning “good” or “handsome.” Husayn is the diminutive, affectionate form.

Barack Obama’s middle name is in honor of his grandfather, Hussein, a secular resident of Nairobi. Americans may think of Saddam Hussein when they hear the name, but that is like thinking of Stalin when you hear the name Joseph. There have been lots of Husseins in history, from the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, a hero who touched the historian Gibbon, to King Hussein of Jordan, one of America’s most steadfast allies in the 20th century. The author of the beloved American novel, The Kite Runner, is Khaled Hosseini.

But in Obama’s case, it is just a reference to his grandfather.

this article is a must, must, must read.

msnbc.com completely bites; obama shines anyway

27-Feb-08

watched the second half of the final debate last night.

didn’t watch the first half, except in stutters, with constant “buffering…please wait” messages flashing across my screen. it’s not my internet access — cnn streamed their two debates to me without a hitch. and when i finally abandoned all hope and went to wonkette.com to read a liveblog of the debate, i found that everyone else in the comment strings was having the same problem.

and the commenters recommended cleveland.com as an alternative, which worked perfectly, and i watched the second half with no hiccups whatsoever.

and as a capper, each time i reloaded msnbc.com’s feed, the prestitial commercial streamed perfectly and then the live coverage didn’t work.

good job there, people. if you are going to heavily promote accessibility to your debates, then make sure you have the bandwidth to do the job. failing that, at least make sure that the audio streams continuously, even if the video drops frames. last night’s feed just froze constantly. it’s always encouraging when the national network is outplanned by the local affiliate. but thanks for all of the commercials. i’ll run out and buy some preparation h, or whatever.

not that the msnbc debate was well-planned anyway. brian williams, and especially tim russert, asked inane and poorly formed questions, and repeatedly got in the way of the candidates and made the event about themselves, and not about the candidates and the issues. here’s how to run a debate: ask a well-thought out question, and shut up while people answer it. at some points, i thought the debate was between tim russert and hillary clinton, or tim russert and barack obama.

and, can we cue up the right video, please? jeebus. that was so unfair to hillary clinton, but both candidates handled it gracefully.

in general, i found clinton to be grating and overly aggressive to no apparent positive point. perhaps her (to me) off-key performance was prompted by the out-of-bounds questioning, but barack seemed to handle the same aggressive questioning with aplomb. that tells me whose cool demeanor i want sitting across the negotiating table from tinpot nutbag dictators.

i keep asking myself if i am watching these debates with a view askew, slanted toward the candidate i am supporting. but every time i approach her with an open mind, clinton just disappoints.

obama is just a cool customer. to me his vision and demeanor trumps purported “experience”.

and the oscar for best score goes to…

25-Feb-08

jonny greenwood for “there will be blood”?

um, no.

i know. let’s give the oscar to the most cloying and obvious score in recent memory.

honestly. i didn’t think much of atonement. the young girl (saorise ronan) was phenomenal, but the movie itself was badly in need of some editing. i nearly fell asleep while they wandered endlessly around france during world war ii.

but the thing that kept me awake was the score, because every time i started to nod off, there would be that goddamn tap tap tap on the typewriter sprinkled throughout the score, supposedly strategically. this to me is an idea that sounds like it arose in a committee, and should have been rejected. “hey, she’s a writer. what sound can we use symbolically in the score to show she’s a writer?”

can we get more obvious? this is oscar-worthy brilliantly divergent and original thinking?

it’s as if voters purposely picked the worst score, in protest. maybe they did.

all i know is that someday, jonny greenwood is going to be a even more critically acclaimed composer in musical genres other than rock. perhaps he’ll win that oscar someday, for another film.

my advice to him?

don’t waste your time scoring any more hollywood films. they don’t deserve you.