A Question of Etiquette

I just received a Facebook friend request from a girl who stole my favorite sweatshirt in college. We weren't even dating. We were just friends and she borrowed the sweatshirt one night because she was cold and I never saw it (or her for that matter) again. And she had the gall to send along a little message with her request that asked if I remembered her. Of course I do. I hate her. So, what's the proper response here? Let bygones be and accept her offer of social-networked friendship? Ignore and shun and leave her to think I don't know who she is? Or tell her that I never forgot her because she stole my favorite sweatshirt and perhaps ask if she still has it and/or demand restitution depending on the answer and her current financial situation? [N.B.: I acknowledge that this third option carries with it the risk that she will think I am totally insane.]


Discontent, Cont.

The season is over. The bullpen blew yet another game and for the second year in a row the Mets' playoff hopes die on the final day of the season. Last year the Mets defied the odds and squandered a 7-game lead with only 17 left to play and spent October watching the playoffs from home. This year the lead was 3.5 with 17 to play. Not as bad, but it still sucks. On the bright side, my schedule for the next month just opened up and I won't have to keep coming up with excuses to sneak out of work early to watch the games. So I've got that going for me.


The Fall Of My Discontent

First there was this Sarah Palin nonsense. Then David Foster Wallace killed himself. [1] Then the economy tanked. As if that wasn't enough, now the Mets have joined the fun: the 2008 season is teetering on the verge of collapse; I fear that it is going to happen again. [2] The bullpen blew yet another game, the offense once again couldn't get it done, and the Mets now find themselves tied for the wildcard with the Brewers with just four games to play--the final games ever to be played at Shea Stadium. I still have faith, but it is being tested. You gotta believe.

[1] His death really upset me, moreso, I think, than the passing of any other artist who died while I was in the midst of fandom. And I'm not alone: millions of NASCAR fans feel the same way.

It seems appropriate to mention DFW's death here, in a footnote, but I can't begin to describe his meaning to the literary world as well as others can (and this article sums up his legacy pretty well) and I'm not going to try. All I want to say is that I loved his writing. Whether it was his recount of the Maine Lobster Festival or a week traveling with John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, his vivid, rollicking tales of life aboard a luxury cruise, or the sprawling mindfuck of Infinite Jest, I never wanted to leave the worlds he created and described. RIP, DFW.

[2] This is a pretty good summary of what life as a Mets fan has been like for the past year.



Sitting atop the gear rack on the back of a 4-wheeler hanging on for dear life while crossing the tundra with wind whipping in our faces and mud splattering on our legs, C.C. turned to me and said, "This sure beats sitting in an office in New York and being yelled at by a senior partner, doesn't it?"

Later we found ourselves at the remote airstrip sans our local escort and waiting for two hours in forty-degree air under rainy skies for our plane, which was now very late. We couldn't leave because if the plane showed up and we weren't there it would leave without us. And we would have no way of knowing it had arrived and no way to get home. Plus, we didn't have any place to stay out there. So we had to wait. After a bear wandered by I looked at C.C. and whispered, "That office in N.Y. sounds pretty good right about now."

More tales from a very unique business trip indeed to come.


Checking In From The Banks Of The Kuskokwim

Writing from a hotel in: Bethel, AK
Just got back from: Kwigillingok
Tomorrow headed to: Tuntutuliak
Traveling in: Very small planes
Been up since: 5 AM
Reading: Consider The Lobster
Listening to: The Submarines; Frightened Rabbit; Legal Lad's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Lawful Life Podcasts
Reason why my cab driver failed the written motorcycle test yesterday: The book the Bethel DMV gave him to study from was from 1992.


Too Hot To Handle

I kind of have a thing for Sarah Palin. [1] And I loooooove me some Tina Fey. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin was almost too much for my poor heart to take. But, my god was it brilliant, hilarious, and spot-on:

[1] But not quite to the extent that this guy does: "[S]he really is kinda hot. Basically, I want to have sex with her on my Barack Obama sheets while my wife reads aloud from the Constitution. (My wife is cool with this if I promise to "first wipe off Palin's tranny makeup." I married well.)" Indeed he did.


Sarah's Saturday Spectacle

It was perhaps the largest gathering of its kind in state history:  1,500 or so people took the streets sidewalks to show their lack of support for Sarah Palin (the Palinistas were severely outnumbered).  And like all good protests, there were cowardly, ignorant threats, creative signs, lots of chanting, and someone dressed as a polar bear.  Here is a good recap/chronology of how the protest developed and a look at how the crowd swelled over the course of the day.  I'm too lazy to upload my pictures, so I'll point you to Myster and McGeez who have it pretty well covered, recap and pictures-wise.  More press coverage is available here, and here is some video McGeez shot while we drove by the crowd, honking "yes we can" along the way.  Also, if you listen closely, you can hear my dog barking from the back seat.  Towards the end she's in sync with the horn.  That's my girl.  Sarah, not so much.


Sarah Palin Is Sort Of A Liar, Technically

Over and over again Sarah keeps telling three stories that are supposed to prove that she has been committed to ending wasteful government spending during her (brief) tenure as Alaska's Governor: (1) she fired the official governor's chef; (2) she said "thanks but no thanks" to Congress for the "bridge to nowhere"; and (3) she put the state's private jet on e-bay. At first glance, these seem like common-sense solutions to government problems--the kind of solutions that we wish more politicians would employ. Yeah for Sarah! She's bringing common sense to government!

While I agree with the sentiment behind each of these statements, and while I think they are laudable decisions, the rhetoric she is using to describe them is not entirely accurate. That is, she is not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This, my friends, is called spin. And all politicians--repubs, dems, green partiers--well, actually, the greenies really aren't so good at it...strike that. All successful politicians are good at it. And statements such as these are carefully worded to stand up to scrutiny and survive cross examination and polygraph machinery. So, let's let the judging begin. Is she misrepresenting or just embellishing? Is she being untruthful or just omitting facts? Is she a liar or only sort of a liar, technically. Let's look at each statement in turn:

1. She did not fire the chef. The chef was transferred to another job. Some may describe this as embellishment, but I think it is a lie. Saying you fired someone connotes images of the Donald J. Trump Four-Finger Point and the words "you're fired." See? It does.

Absent a pink slip, you cannot claim someone was fired. But, saying "I reassigned the official governor's chef to another position because I thought it was wasteful to have her on salary as a chef when I spent so little time at the mansion in Juneau because I spent most of my time in Wasilla and by reassigning her there was no net financial savings to the state" doesn't make as good a sound bite. Verdict: not egregious, but a lie nonetheless.

2. "I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that bridge to nowhere." First, a few points of clarification: This wasn't a bridge to nowhere. It would have replaced the ferry that currently connects the City of Ketchikan (pop. 7,500 or just about the size of Wasilla) to the Ketchikan International Airport on Gravina Island (Wasilla doesn't have an int'l airport). Also, this would have been a huge bridge, nearly as long as the Golden Gate and as tall as the Brooklyn Bridge, and would have cost about $400 million ($223 million came from the feds). An engineering marvel, to say the least. And Sarah, when she was campaigning for governor, was all about the bridge, saying it was essential for the town's prosperity. Oh, look, here's a picture of Sarah from that campaign trip to Ketchikan in 2006:

When it became a national joke and symbol of pork at its worst, the project was cancelled, but Palin didn't return the money. Congress only removed the earmark provision, so the state kept $220+ million and used it for other projects. Was this statement a lie? Technically, no. She did cancel the bridge. But only after originally being in favor of it and she kept the cash. And when she was the Mayor of Wasilla, she loved federal money. In fact, she hired a lobbying firm to secure nearly $27 million worth of earmarks for the then 6,700-resident town. Verdict: Not quite perjury, but a clear misrepresentation, sketchy as all get-out, and a wee bit hypocritical, to say the least.

Also, the state is continuing to build a road to the empty beach where the bridge would have gone because the road money, unlike the bridge money that was un-earmarked, would have to be returned to the feds if the road wasn't built. That is, literally, a road to nowhere.

3. She put the jet on e-bay. Again, first some background: Palin's predecessor, Governor Frank Murkowski, really wanted a private jet. He tried to get the feds to pay for it, applying for Homeland Security funds under the theory that it would help "defend, deter, or defeat opposition forces." DHS said no (good decision. The decision to spend $200,000 on 80 security cameras to spy on the 2400 residents of Dillingham? Not so much.). So Frank spent $2.7 mil of state money on the jet, justified on the grounds that it was going to be used to transport Alaskan prisoners to Arizona (Alaska doesn't have enough jail space for all of its prisoners, so the state contracts with a private prison in Arizona. Another interesting Alaska fact: our largest prison is in Arizona. Go figure.). Not a popular move and it hastened his downfall. But back to Sarah. She stated over and over that she put it on e-bay, and she did, but no one bought it. She ultimately sold it through an aviation broker. She never said she sold it on e-bay, but she certainly implies that she did. Verdict: not a lie.


Flip Flop

Big Surprise: Palin supporters are now singing a different tune.

Karl Rove touts Sarah Palin's experience as the mayor of a town of 9,000 after previously deriding potential Dem VP choice Tim Kaine's lack of experience (specifically citing his time as the mayor of Richmond, VA (pop 200,000)). Bill O'Riley says Bristol's pregnancy is private matter and we shouldn't judge. But when Jamie Lynn Spears announced her own teen pregnancy, who did Bill O. blame? The parents; He called them "pinheads." Dick Morris complains about sexist treatment of Sarah, but has repeatedly made sexist comments about Hillary. Just watch:

Pray for Sarah

Somehow, I'm on former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska Loren Leman's [1] e-mail list. [2] I received a message this morning titled "Remembering Sarah" from his personal e-mail account (somewhat surprisingly, he's a gmail man). Here is the text (emphasis added):

Since the announcement last Friday that Senator John McCain has chosen Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the interest in and attacks on her and her family have been relentless. This continues, even after her major address on Wednesday evening.

Perhaps I am in a unique position to somewhat understand what she is going through. I am a veteran of six campaign cycles--all tough. Sarah Palin and I competed for the same office in 2002 in a spirited campaign. Although I didn't vote for her that year, she earned my respect. Out of those experiences what I believe was so important was our agreement to maintain our friendship, even though competing. We did so and remain friends today.

Any campaign is tough--especially one for Vice President of the United States. Sarah Palin's personal and family challenges are immense. I have concluded we should be spending less time talking about her--and more time praying for her. Please join Carolyn and me in praying for Governor Palin that God will give her wisdom and courage to stand strong--and be a good example to our country.

Loren Leman
former Lieutenant Governor, Alaska

How much time do you think he spent analyzing the situation before reaching that conclusion? What qualifies him as an authority on when talking should stop and praying should commence? These are the questions I want answers to. But much like Sarah's speech last night, (more on that later) Loren's message was light on facts and heavy on playing to sympathies. Until I hear some good reasons from him, I'm going to continue to talk about her and not pray. To that end, for those of you still curious about Sarah's home town Wasilla, check out my friend Alex's video essay on Slate.

[1] He always freaked me out. Mainly because of his giant head, but also the fact that all he cared about during his term as lite gov was creating faith-based initiatives (FBCI), otherwise known as "ways to use public money to support religious groups."

[2] I think I know how. As part of my job requires making sure that the State of Alaska does not violate the Establishment Clause, I paid close attention to the State's FBCI plan that Leman spearheaded and I signed up for the e-newsletter. Methinks Mr. Leman appropriated that e-mail list upon leaving office. I think that calls for a special investigation as well.