Generally speaking the State of the Union is light on hard content. That’s not exactly a new phenomena either. Over the entire history of the SOTU only once has a president declared the state of the union isn’t ‘strong’. In fairness to Gerald Ford it was in the middle of Watergate and Vietnam, so I can’t really blame him for that one. Even though it is rare to see anything concrete laid out, there is still important political theatre(screw you autocorrect, I’m spelling it the pretentious way) that plays out on the night of the speech.
I want to start by saying I hate the clapping. I know, I get it, you have to support your own party. I personally find it insufferable. I watch the SOTU so I can see a speech, not so I can confirm that democrats like democrats and republicans like republicans. It isn’t going to go away. It’s part of the speech. I just want my objection noted, and I vow that if I’m ever elected President of anything I’ll request all seats be covered in glue prior to my SOTU speeches.
There were several interesting moments showing the President’s relationship with congress. I liked what a Washington Post reporter said afterwards, “The audacity of hope has become the reality of limits.” The only time he really took a shot at congress was about the unemployment benefit extension, but his challenge to congress to come up with a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act instead of a 41st meaningless repeal vote was well placed.
The quote that is going to get a lot of attention was his vow to, “keep trying, with or without Congress,” on things like the minimum wage and gun control. Historically speaking a president with his approval rating loses big when the midterm elections come around. Obama knows he’ll be lucky to keep the senate and I’ll eat my left shoe if the Democrats take the house. His executive orders per year rate is currently lower than GWB, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and plenty of other presidents who all had congresses who were more willing to pass legislature than this one. I don’t like the use of executive orders, but it is within the scope of the president’s power and has been upheld by the supreme court. Obama did make it clear he was open to meeting congress in the middle on things like the minimum wage when he stated he would concede plenty of things as far as corporate taxes go.
Two things only got mentioned once in the speech, marriage equality and immigration reform. Marriage equality did get an additional nod with the presence of Jason Collins in the first lady’s box. Immigration reform was also the only legislative issue that got brought up in one of the Republican responses.
As a quick aside before I talk more about the three separate Republican responses, I don’t think immigration reform will get done this year because it is a midterm year. I said it earlier in the article, the Republicans don’t have to do anything to maintain the house, and don’t have to do much to gain the senate. Immigration reform is something big that would be used against incumbents as they were trying to run. I do think immigration reform will get done between 2015 and 2016. Some variety of reform is necessary if Republicans want to stop Texas from turning purple, an event that would crush republican presidential aspirations for many elections to come.
Two things stand out about the Republican responses. The easiest thing to notice was that there were three separate responses. The ‘official’ response was given by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). The Tea Party response was given by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). An additional pre-recorded response, I’m not certain how you can pre-record a response but I’ll go with it, was given by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The biggest adversary to a Republican landslide in the midterms are other Republicans. The party isn’t united, and it is hard to argue otherwise when they can’t even get behind one person to deliver a state of the union response.
Until I watched her response, I had no idea who Representative Rodgers was. After I watched her response, I certainly knew plenty about her. I was shocked how much personal introduction and anecdote there was at the beginning, and interspersed throughout, of her speech. The only policy comments I noticed was the one paragraph mentioning immigration.
It is no secret the state of the union response is often something of a proving ground for future presidential candidates and party leaders. Bob Dole gave the response in ’94 before being the Republican candidate in ’96 and Paul Ryan gave it in ’11. Rodgers’s speech didn’t have any negative memorable moments like Rubio’s needing the drink of water or Jindal’s ‘Howdy Doody’ response. Rodgers introduced herself, paid her way through college thanks to working at McDonald’s, she introduced her husband, active duty Navy, and she introduced her family, multiple children including one with Down’s syndrome.
I’m calling it right now, Rodgers will be heavily included in the 2016 presidential race as the GOP counter to Hillary Clinton. I could be completely off the mark, but the impression I got from the most official of the three Republican responses was that I was watching someone trying to make the right first impression, not someone trying to rebut the current president.
This was something of a mish-mash of thoughts so as always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.
Sports talk is a staple of our culture. It’s a common ground that causes enough passion to generate hours worth of conversation while not quite drumming up the instant animosity that religion and politics do. The problem is that not everyone has the borderline obsession with sports that I do. In the interest of helping people who have healthier obsessions survive workplace discussions tomorrow, and to help me justify the amount I pay attention to football, here are some phrases everyone can use tomorrow.
New England Patriots vs. the Denver Broncos
Quick Primer: Two teams quarterbacked by future hall of famers. The ‘who is better’ debate between Manning and Brady has been going on for the better part of the last 10 years. In this round the Denver Broncos and Manning won with Manning playing fantastically, but getting a lot of help from his defense that shutdown Brady. Honestly this game was less of a contest than the score would indicate. Final score Broncos 26 Patriots 16
Useful Saying: “Looks like Manning finally has the playoff monkey off his back”
Response if someone else says that: “Yes, but Manning has to watch out because if he viewed Brady as his superbowl then he might come out flat next week.”
Useful Saying: “The Patriots only lost because they got bit by the injury bug more than any other team in the NFL”
Response if someone else says that: “Poor Tom Brady is going to have go sleep with his three superbowl rins, supermodel wife, and pile of money? Unlucky is not the word”
Useful Saying: “Who would have thought the Manning/Brady bowl was going to be so boring?”
Response if someone else says that: “Yeah, caught me off guard too”
San Francisco 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks
Quick Primer: Two division rivals who hate each other. The coaches coached against each other in college and hate each other. The fans live close together and hate each other. The wide receivers and the defenses trash talked each other in the press over this last week. This was an instant classic of a game that people will talk about for years. Final Score Seattle 23 San Francisco 17
WARNING: There was an injury in this game that was absolutely brutal. It’s the sort of injury that caused me to physically recoil from the TV. If you are squeamish about watching a knee get bent in at an extreme angle and somebody asks if you want to see the video, say no. It was shown multiple times from multiple angles in HD during the game. Both teams jumped up and started shouting for the trainers immediately. It was bad.
Useful Saying: “The refs really screwed the 49ers in this game. The roughing the kicker call, the non reviewable fumble, the unsportsmanlike conduct that ended the half, just awful officiating.”
Response if someone else says that: “True(they really did), but the refs didn’t cause the 49ers QB to turn the ball over three times, that was the Seattle defense.”
Useful Saying: “Seriously, how badly did the refs screw the 49ers in this game?”
Response if someone else says that: “Ok, they did. Getting the refs full time positions could really improve the officiating errors we now notice because of the HD cameras and closeups. But to be fair, the roughing the kicker call was the only one of the calls that really impacted the game. The non reviewable fumble became fumble the next play. The unsportsmanlike call at the end of the half didn’t really impact much because there were only 20 seconds left and the 49ers took a knee instead of going for a low percentage hail mary. The 49ers got some bad calls, but they had plenty of opportunities to take the refs out of the equation.”
Useful Saying: “What was up with the crazy guy in the post game interview?”
Response if someone else says that: “It was a weird interview, but the guy is going to the superbowl, just made the play of his career, and at least it wasn’t the same generic ‘we gave it 110%’ interview we’ve seen hundreds of times. That said, he should probably take it down a notch because he creeped out all of America.”
Preliminary Superbowl Prediction: The defense that completely bottled up Brady will do the same to the still inexperienced Wilson. Manning will struggle early against the Legion of Boom(the nickname for the Seattle defense), but after some halftime adjustments he’ll lead the Broncos to a comeback victory.
As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.
Quick disclaimer: I’ve done an awful job seeing movies this year because of the move across the country, but here are a few thoughts. I’m going to mention some minor plot related things I don’t think count as spoilers, but if you don’t want any part of the experience spoiled skip this.
Wolf of Wall Street: An absolutely incredible film and my favorite movie I saw this year. DiCaprio plays the lead so well that I think the moment he hits his wife was thrown in there because otherwise he would have sold the audience that his character was in the right. The speeches he gives to the office are the stuff monologue wet dreams are made of(I’m not the only one who has those right?) The way his narration changes throughout the movie to reflect his mental state at the time is masterful. When he is in total control he can just change reality by speaking a different color for his car, and as he switches to denial he starts narrating incorrectly. Scorsesee is incredible and can tell epics in a way no one else in hollywood can. If for nothing else, the last shot of the movie will ensure this film stays with me for a long time.
Gravity: I can’t remember a non Vikings collapse related that has caused me to forget to breathe more times in a two hour stretch. Sandra Bullock is so strong you forget to look at the visual space porn in the back of nearly every shot in this movie. A ton of credit has to go to Cuaron for being able to use green screen and 3D to such an extent and still make a character movie.
That sums up my thoughts on all the best picture nominees I’ve seen. I told you I hadn’t seen many this year.
I would like to point out two painful snubs though.
The Best Animated Film is really going to come down to Frozen(I’ve heard nothing but good things) vs. The Wind Rises(It’s a Miyazaki so I’m going to assume nothing but good things), but to nominate The Croods and leave out Monsters U is still going to irritate me. I’ve written plenty about what I didn’t like about Pacific Rim. That being said, the fighting robot fest was gorgeous, and to see The Lone Ranger in place of it in the Visual Effects category is as baffling.
For the record the three biggest crimes the Oscars have committed since I started caring are(in no particular order):
1. Russel Crowe as Best Actor for Gladiator over Tom Hanks in Cast Away(my mother has tried to convene a war crimes tribunal for this one)
2. Wall-E not being nominated for Best Picture. It had six oscar nominations in total and had the metallic nuts to go 39 minutes before resorting to dialogue to tell its story.
3. Black Swan not being nominated for Original Score for being too close to the original. The subtle manipulation of the original as the movie went on was the whole point. The music transformed with the lead. This isn’t advanced level film degree analysis. If the score is that beautiful and is part of the story telling, it does more than most scores do as far as advancing the medium of film.
I’m still working on the conspiracy theory post I promised someone I’d do next, but with the nominations coming out today I wanted to put something up, especially because I’m behind my resolution goal. As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome.
Answers are guaranteed.
Inner Dialogue Voice 1: Are we going to be at the start of every post?
IDV2: Probably, Reed finds it easiest to write the same way he speaks and imagining a dialogue is his way of recreating that.
IDV1: That’s a great justification for talking to yourself.
IDV2: Yeah, he thought so too.
As some of you know, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame vote was last week. For those of you who didn’t know, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame vote was last week. Many of the players who played during baseball’s steroid era have been retired long enough that they are eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The sport is currently giving us a fascinating insight into what is and what is not acceptable as far as body modification.
If a player has: the most homeruns in a season and in a career, the highest slugging percentage in a season and in the world series, the highest on base percentage in a season, the most walks in a season, was 7 time league MVP, 14 time all star, 8 time gold glove winner, 12 time silver slugger winner, and is the only player to ever have more times on base than he had plate appearances in a season(baseball stats are weird, but I promise this is possible), you’d think they would get more than 34.7% of the vote to get in the hall of fame. The Baseball Writers Association of America is the organization that votes on who gets into the hall of fame and they’ve clearly decided that Barry Bonds’s use of PEDs is a good enough reason to ignore those accolades and keep him out of the hall.
Before I go on I’m going to give a brief primer on how steroids work on a biological level as well as explain a procedure known as Tommy John surgery. Have you heard fitness trainers recommend alternating ‘leg’ days and ‘arm’ days? Part of the reason for that is when you exercise a muscle group it takes roughly 48 hours for the muscle tissue to rebuild to suitably healthy levels before working out again will do much good. The steroids which have become the PED of choice in many major sports shorten that recovery from 48 to 24 hours. This means you can work out every single day and build muscle faster. The fact that the drugs only work as a repair mechanism becomes important in a couple paragraphs.
Tommy John surgery is a medical graft procedure in which tendon from somewhere in the body, or from a corpse, is removed and put in place of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. It was first performed in 1974 and is named for the major league baseball pitcher it was first performed on as opposed to the doctor who invented it which I always found odd. This surgery has become common among pitchers as a way to to erase the years of stress the pitching motion puts on that ligament. This surgery is meant as a repair mechanism, it hasn’t been shown to allow the player to throw harder or faster, this will become important in a couple paragraphs.
Taking steroids is considered by many to be the ultimate baseball transgression. It puts you right up there with the 1919 ‘Black Sox’ who fixed a world series. There is a player named Mike Piazza who has never tested positive for steroids in their career, but because he developed a case of acne on his back(a possible side effect of steroids) during his time in the majors he is considered to be tainted and is not in the hall of fame despite being possibly the best offensive catcher ever to play. In the modern baseball era, as far the Baseball Writers Association is concerned, there is no greater sin.
In the last ten years there has been such a rise in Tommy John surgery among pitchers that some team doctors are now recommending pitchers get the surgery after college and before they start playing in the majors so that their recovery time from the surgery doesn’t interrupt the middle of their career. The surgery is as low risk as any invasive surgery is, and has been shown to be a boon of a recovery tool for pro athletes.
I imagine by this point you can see the rub. Tommy John surgery and steroids operate in a very similar way, neither one enhances by itself, it just makes it easier for the body to get to and stay at peak condition. Recovery through drugs is evil, but recovery through surgery is encouraged. Taking steroids to get the most out of your body should get you banned from the game for life. Having doctors transplant tendons to get the most out of your body is so normal it doesn’t even have to wait for a real injury anymore and can be done in advance with no one batting an eye.
We’re a society that loves our drugs, there’s no doubt there. The average american fills twelve prescriptions a year(source: 1). We’re rapidly entering a world in which medicine allows us to get more out of our bodies than any human in the past ever hoped to get. Sports are always going to be breaking ground in this arena because it is only there that people are paid millions to squeeze every drop of physical potential out of their bones and sinews.
Will society only accept drugs that treat disease but don’t enhance? Will your average pro athlete soon be able to shatter all existing world records because of modifications either surgical or drug based? Will we someday see athlete sponsored surgeries the way we now have sponsored shoes?
I lean towards yes on all three of those questions, but all I know for sure is that Barry Bonds belongs in the hall of fame.
I’m happy to announce I actually received a question recently I plan on answering via this blog. That said, questions, criticisms, and comments of all forms are always welcome. Answers are guaranteed.
Inner Dialogue Voice 1: Your first post has to be grandiose! No simple ‘hi this is my blog’ sort of thing.
Inner Dialogue Voice 2: If you wait for the right time you’re going to put this off for at least 3-5 months. Then once it comes you’re going to spend another couple weeks thinking of a snappy and/or flippant title.
IDV1: Good point, we’re trying to incorporate an overall gambling motif, so why not go to three news sites check out the top story and if there’s a theme, go with it.
IDV2: We’ll call it Reed’s Roulette!
IDV1: You are and your fucking titles.
This is as of 3:30pm EST, CNN has a story about police shooting a mentally ill teenager, MSNBC is featuring an Obama speech pleading for an unemployment insurance extension, and Fox is warning people about a road rage killer in Pennsylvania who is still on the loose. That’s just a basket full of cute ducklings to choose from isn’t it? Police brutality, poverty, and senseless violence are this world’s current offerings.
That’s it! World’s offering. Surely if I go to an international site there will be something a little more in line with the tone I want to set. I could go with the BBC’s chemical weapons in Syria piece or Al Jazeera’s hand grenades thrown into police station north of Cairo headline.
Alright then, let’s spin the wheel. The ball seems to be coming to rest next to The Onion’s ‘Girlfriend Overdoses on Lotion’.
Doom and gloom headlines are well and good. We should be warned about the dangers in the world around us and there are plenty. I’m certain within arms reach of you right now there are 36 things giving you cancer and at least 19 objects that could maim you in ways that would get you your own headline on a news site.
When I was a kid I would see the ads during the Simpsons for the local news that night and they were going to tell me what in my house was most dangerous. I couldn’t help but think if it was really a big deal they would tell me now instead of forcing me to wait until 6:12 after weather, traffic, and a check in to the sports scores.
The problem is that if I were to just read news sites all day I’m pretty certain I could turn myself into a paranoid shut in who would give Howard Hughes pause. Girlfriend Overdoses on Lotion is a fine journalistic piece about the dangers of excessive indulgences especially in the things that appear healthy like having silken glossy legs that smell like a mix of Costa Rican orchids and used bookstore. Now that I mention it, I’d buy something that smelled like that.
The point is everything in moderation. Is that an original thought? God, no, but it links nicely with my blog because this was my new year’s resolution. Do at least two posts a week, and yes I’m a week behind already. Writing isn’t something I do often, and reading this blog isn’t something you do often unless you’re from the future(if you are, do the Vikings ever win it all?). So let’s both try out something new. I promise to keep this from being as repetitive as internet headline seem to be, and if you want to help out by throwing me post suggestions and/or asking questions about life, the universe, and/or everything, please do.
Answers are guaranteed.