Apr. 29, 2009

A pair of political observations:

  1. Today is Barack Obama’s 100th day in office. Obama himself would probably concede that his administration isn’t off to a flawless start, but his willingness to admit mistakes is one reason why I voted for him in the first place. And I think it’s still far too early to be overly critical of an earnest, competent leader who inherited a royal mess that took eight years to create.
  2. However, please add me to the list of people who are puzzled by the incessant media frenzy over such an arbitrary 100-day milestone — or, more accurately, a “Hallmark holiday,” according to an Obama aide. Let’s put away the report cards and let the government continue to tackle our country’s problems.
  3. Yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter stunned the political world. Having been a member of the GOP since 1966 and a Republican senator from Pennsylvania since 1980, he decided to switch parties and become a Democrat, declaring, “I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party.”
  4. Moreover, he admitted that his decision was largely based on his chances in next year’s election; most diehard conservatives don’t approve of his moderate voting record and would likely reject him in the 2010 Republican primary. That may sound like a selfish reason to defect, especially to the Republicans who have supported him over the years. But Specter’s drastic move speaks volumes; even a long-term Republican has concluded that his own party simply cannot and will not tolerate anything short of extreme right-wing leadership.
  5. In yesterday’s New York Times, Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine, eloquently lamented the GOP’s deepening woes:
    In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide.
    I have said that, without question, we cannot prevail as a party without conservatives. But it is equally certain we cannot prevail in the future without moderates.
    Source: Olympia Snowe, “We Didn’t Have to Lose Arlen Specter” (The New York Times, Apr. 28, 2009)
  6. Very, very true. The Democratic party seems to thrive on inclusiveness, especially in the wake of Obama’s election. Meanwhile, Republicans are quickly becoming an endangered species; in fact, only 21% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans, according to a recent poll.
  7. And those staunch GOP voters have responded to their dwindling numbers by digging in their heels. They bark about record deficits, despite Bush’s own federal spending spree. Many of them cling to narrow social views, as though our government should be a theocracy. And above all else, they constantly whine that the Obama administration is comprised of “socialists,” although few bothered to look up the meaning of that word after hearing the term from their all-knowing overlords, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
  8. And speaking of those clowns, when the most prominent voices of your political party are radio personalities rather than actual politicians, your party is about as relevant as the Whigs.
  9. As a self-described moderate, my only hope is that, someday, I’ll be able to choose between two legitimate parties once again.

[ No. 518 ]

Apr. 23, 2009

I know, I’ve previously commented on the amazingly targeted ads that appear in the margins of Facebook, and I usually make a conscious effort to avoid rehashing old material on this site. However, I must make an exception for the following ad, which appears to be designed specifically for me:

Facebook ad: "Stuck in Office Space?"

The overwhelming majority of online ads are really, really creepy. You know, the ones with grainy animated photos and appealing slogans such as I HATE MY YELLOW TEETH and ONE FLAT STOMACH RULE: OBEY. (And that’s only a sampling of the ones that don’t require an 18-and-over warning.)

But I simply couldn’t resist clicking on that red stapler. And thankfully, the ad was for real — I was quickly redirected to a surprisingly legitimate Web site that promotes available IT jobs at Penn State. (My only complaint: they should probably update their copyright date of 2005.)

Tremendously effective ad, and one that includes a rare sense of humor in the world of recruiting.

[ No. 517 ]

Image credit: Facebook

Apr. 21, 2009

As I’ve often said, nobody’s perfect. Mistakes happen to everyone, and I certainly make plenty of them every day of my life.

I also try to avoid kicking sports teams when they’re down, but on occasion, a little schadenfreude can be hard to resist. That was especially true last fall, when the $209 million New York Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993, only to be outdone by the once-mighty Michigan Wolverines, who completed their worst season in the modern era with a dismal 3–9 record. (And yes, I know, both teams will return to prominence soon enough.)

So, I’m really trying not to openly mock the Washington Nationals, who have stumbled out of the gate this year with an MLB-worst record of 2–10 as of today. I have nothing against them, really; I’ve watched them play on several occasions, and although the Nats are in the same division as the Phillies, they aren’t considered a bitter rival of my hometown team.

But seriously, how can you call yourself a professional baseball organization when your team takes the field wearing misspelled jerseys?

Adam Dunn sporting a "Natinals" jersey

This is just a hunch, but I predict that a very specific job listing — one with a title of “Equipment Manager” in the greater Washington, D.C., area — will appear on Monster later this week, if it hasn’t already.*

* Update: My friend Doug, who resides in our nation’s capital, posted a comment on my Facebook profile with the official response from the jersey manufacturer:

“All of us at Majestic Athletic want to apologize to both the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball for accidentally omitting the ‘O’ in two Nationals jerseys last week,” said Jim Pisani, president of Majestic Athletic. “We take 100 percent responsibility for this event, and we regret any embarrassment for the Nationals organization, players and fans.
“Outfitting all 30 teams and 750 players is a duty we take very seriously. Majestic has been trusted on-field for over 25 years. Based on our history, clubhouse managers expect that every new uniform from Majestic is perfect. For the Nationals, this time we did not meet this standard.”

Again, perfection is a noble but ultimately impossible goal. But still, how did the Nationals’ clubhouse manager miss a glaring error like this?

[ No. 516 ]

Photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak

Apr. 13, 2009

Shortly after lunch today, I was shocked to learn that Harry Kalas, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies since 1971, passed away today at the age of 73.

Very few broadcasters become as well-known as the athletes they cover from the booth. But Harry Kalas, who joined the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002, became the ultimate personification of the Phillies — not just for his indelible voice, but for his unflagging enthusiasm for the game, his lively sense of humor, and his dedication to the fans. In fact, I’d argue that Harry was one of the most beloved figures in Philadelphia. Harry was one of us, and our city has lost a legend today.

In the wake of such sad news, I learned one interesting fact. When the Phillies won their first World Series in 1980, Harry wasn’t allowed to provide live play-by-play commentary as a local broadcaster due to strict network regulations at the time. But it’s very satisfying to know that he was there to call the final strike of the Phillies’ 2008 championship just a few short months ago.

Thanks for many, many wonderful years, Harry. You were a class act, and listening to Phillies games will never be the same without you.

[ No. 515 ]

Apr. 9, 2009

Some book titles that totally should have been published by now:

[ No. 514 ]

Apr. 2, 2009

When I was a student at Penn State in the mid-1990s, the PSU men’s basketball team was respectable, especially compared to their wretched performance in recent years. But even back then, the Lions’ perennial absence from the excitement of the NCAA Tournament often led me to recite a wistful refrain:

You can’t spell “Nittany” without NIT.

Earlier tonight, the PSU hoops squad made up for their near-miss from this year’s Big Dance and actually won the NIT. It’s their first championship in a national basketball tournament in school history.

Having defeated George Mason (77–73 in overtime), Rhode Island (83–72), Florida (71–62 in the quarterfinals), and Notre Dame (67–59 in the semifinals) earlier in the 32-team tournament, Penn State captured its first-ever NIT trophy with a hard-fought win over Baylor, 69–63, at Madison Square Garden.

While watching the game on TV, I occasionally forgot that the game was being played on a neutral court. A total of 36 busloads of students and staff made the trip from Happy Valley and turned the arena into a PSU home game. It was great to see such vocal support and enthusiasm that’s usually reserved for Saturdays in the fall at Beaver Stadium.

And although there have been plenty of reasons to doubt the leadership of head coach Ed DeChellis over the last several years, I will gladly give him credit for leading the Nittany Lions to a school-record 27 wins and their first success on a national level in anyone’s memory.

Congratulations to the Nittany Lions for a terrific season and a superb postseason performance.

[ No. 513 ]