Ante Up, Bitches

Oh this is brilliant. Produced this past July and approaching 3 Million hits. And yeah, I just discovered it. The song is "Ante Up" by Mash Out Posse (M.O.P.). Video produced by a young Norwegian on YouTube named stianhafstad..

Huh (huh) huh (huh) huh (huh) huh (huh)
Yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah) yeah (yeah)

Lil Fame:
Take minks off! Take things off!
Take chains off! Take rings off!
Bracelets is yapped, Fame came off!
(Ante Up!) Everything off!
Fool what you want? We stiflin them fools
Fool what you want? Your life or your jewels?
The rules, (back em down) next thing, (clap em down)
Respect mine we Brooklyn bound, (bound! now, (now!))

Billy Danze:
Brownsville, home of the brave
Put in work in the street like a slave
Keep rugged dress code
Always in this stress mode
(That shit will send you to your grave) So?
You think I don't know that? (BLOW!)
Nigga hold that! (BLOW!) Nigga hold that! (BLOW!) Nigga hold that!
From the street cousin, you know the drill
I'm 900 and 99 thou short of a mill

Ante Up! Yap that fool!
Ante Up! Kidnap that fool!
It's the perfect timin, you see the man shinin
Get up off them god damn diamonds! Huh!
Ante Up! Yap that fool!
Ante Up! Kidnap that fool!
Get him (get him) get him!
Hit him (hit him) hit him!
Yap him! (Zap him!) Yap him! (Zap him!)

And The Lads Win Again!

Outstanding! The Toon defeat Tottenham for the 6th consecutive time in Permiership play. They were favored to win. But they absolutely had to to further secure their safety and continue their ascent to the middle of the Premiership table. And who scored the winning goal? Damien Duff! The 29 year-old Irish national scored his second goal for the Toon this season (08-09).

Mean Spirited: Proposition 8 Sponsors File To Nullify all 18,000 Gay CA Marriges

The battle to nullify Proposition 8 just got cranked-up a notch. The group that sponsored Proposition 8 (called 'Yes on Proposition 8') has asked the California Supreme Court to nullify all gay marriages already in California's records.

Their request comes in the form of a legal brief, co-written by none other than Ken Starr. Considering that judges don't appreciate a team of lawyers commanding them what to do, they will likely strike-down this request.

Caroline In The City

I'll give Caroline Kennedy credit for her first, genuine, ad-hoc press conference on 125th Street today. But I have to say it - she did not explain why she wants Hillary's Senate seat, or what she has to offer other than a reliable Democratic vote in-line with Charles Schumer. In fact, she is rather flat when she's unscripted. Can you count the number of caution flags in these comments?

"I come at this as a mother, as a lawyer, as an author, as an education advocate and from a family that really has spent generations in public service."
"I feel this commitment, and this is a time when nobody can afford to sit out. And I hope that I have something to offer."
"I have, you know, quite a lot to learn, but I feel like I bring a lot with me, as well."
I think I speak for many Democrats when I say that we need more than a legacy who brings only her vote and her ability to do fundraising. I also think it is safe to say that Caroline Kennedy is not a politician. She raises money for good causes, and she sits on the boards of various non-profits. But she hasn't had a full-time job as a lawyer in years. Hillary was similar, but at least she was elected to the Senate. Kennedy is asking to be appointed. To appoint a non-politician to the US Senate would be a risky move.

And assuming that Rudy Giuliani will be the Republican nominee for the seat is a mistake. He's happy on the speech circut as his political career is over.

Let's Put NYC Secession Back On The Table

Today was a disgusting day of bad news in New York City.

Last night (which I will spin into 'today's news'), Governor Patterson proposed a long list of new taxes and tax increases on all sorts of goods and services. Like what? A sales tax on sports tickets. A return of the sales tax on clothing. A whopping 18% sales sax on non-diet sodas and high calorie soft drinks. A sales tax on movie theater tickets. A higher tax on car rentals. And a sales tax on downloaded entertainment, from iTunes to porn. In other words, a tax on a lot of things that are fun.

Then today, the MTA Board approved a the so-called 'Doomsday' recommendation to drastically increase fares on all forms of mass transit. Just last week, it was speculated that the MTA board would have to make a decision between steep fare increases and service cuts. But today, they chose to recommend both. Even Governor Patterson's compromise of a smaller fare hike coupled with higher business payroll taxes was ignored (for now) as the MTA board went ahead with a recommendation for a 23% fare increase. A series of fare increases could reduce ridership and increase incidents of fare evasion. I remember when a single-ride fare was $1.25 (1991-1995). Come July it will either be $2.50 or $3.00. MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin says that higher unemployment will reduce ridership, which has been at a constant record level since the late 1990s. But if the MTA is able to stick to this proposal and increase fares every two years to keep-up with 'inflation' (which right now is deflation), then they will almost surely see a loss of ridership.

In good times, the city funds the state budget very nicely. And in bad times, the state dumps de-facto tax increases and service cuts onto the city. And in really bad times, the Governor shrugs his shoulders, throws in the towel, and says things like

My overall thought is we're going to have to make the tough choices; it's either going to one source of pain or another.

Would now be a good time to suggest that New York City re-visit the idea of seceding from the state and becoming the District of Gotham?

Another Silly Politico Article

Charles Mahtesian: Nepotism Nation: Democrats Embrace Dynasty Politics

Where to begin? Is it a news flash that either party has legacies?
Barack Obama's path to the presidency included beating what had been one of the nation's most powerful families. But, in an unusual twist, his election last month is helping accelerate the trend toward dynasty politics.

His secretary of state will be Hillary Clinton, the wife of the former president. The Senate seat she’ll vacate is being pursued by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of a president and the niece of two senators. Joe Biden’s Senate seat may go to his son Beau. Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, Obama’s pick for interior secretary, could end up being replaced by his brother, Rep. John Salazar.

That's right. Barack opened the floodgates to a giant wave of Nepotism. Is this author serious?
The U.S. Senate could end up looking like an American version of the House of Lords – and Republicans have begun to take notice.
There was once a senator named Paul Wellstone who made that point over 10 years ago. And he was a Democrat.
“Democrats seem to lack a common man who can just win a good, old-fashioned election,” said Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
You mean a non-legacy who can work hard and win big? I might know a guy.
While Obama’s election and subsequent Cabinet appointments may have accelerated the trend toward dynasty, he’s hardly responsible for it. There is a rich bipartisan history of dynasty in American politics that dates all the way back to the Founding Fathers; Obama-Biden actually represents the first winning ticket since 1976 without a son or a grandson of a U.S. senator on it.
Oh, so midway through the article, Mr. Mahtesian puts things in perspective. It weakens his argument, but I'm sure it must be central to his point.
Almost everyone agrees that the high cost of elections is making the world’s most exclusive club seem even more exclusive. According to some estimates, the cost of winning Clinton’s New York Senate seat in the special election in 2010 and the general election in 2012 will be in the neighborhood of $70 million.

“There are three issues behind this trend,” said Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause and a former Pennsylvania congressman. “Money is issue number one, money is issue number two and money is issue number three.”

“It’s an enormously expensive process to run for the United States Senate,” added Edgar, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1986. “And once someone [wins] a Senate seat, there is a sense of ownership.”

Again, Paul Wellstone made speeches about this very issue, and he taught me and many others that the Senate is a millionaires-only club, for better or worse. Paul Wellstone and Ted Kennedy taught me more about the workings of the Senate than anyone else in my lifetime.

And before we declare this to be a new era of nepotism and legacies because Sweet Caroline wants her late uncle's NY Senate seat, let's pause and acknowledge that there are many smart Democrats who are against her appointment.

Crucial Games This Weekend

1. Portsmouth v. Newcastle (EPL). Newcastle have come away with a tie in their last four games. They are stuck in 17th place. They badly need a win to sat out of the relegation zone (18th place or below). But they will be way down south in Portsmouth on Sunday. They are underdogs once again. And they will need near-perfect performances from the likes of Stephen Taylor, Lua Lua, and Jonas in order to come away with a point or more. It will probably be another frustrating game for the Toon, but could also be entertaining as well.

2. Pittsburgh v. Baltimore (NFL). The winner would have the advantage to win the NFC North. No, the Super Bowl champion is not coming from the NFC North. But these are arguably the best two defenses in the NFL. It could be the game of the week. If I was employed, I'd go see it. But fortunately it will be shown on most eastern CBS affiliates Sunday at 16:15 EST.

Not Obama's Problems

It's been a month of fake controversies for Barack Obama. Let's try to recap briefly.

The 'vault copy' of Obama's Honolulu birth certificate? Not Obama's problem. He couldn't release a 'vault copy' even if he sent feds or his lawyers to Honolulu to retrieve it. It stays in the vault. And the state employee who saw it and validated the public copies says there's no controversy whatsoever. Oh, and there is Obama's 1961 birth announcement in the newspaper. Conspiracy theory, indeed. The wingnuts say that Barry could kill this controversy by answering questions about the circumstances related to his birth. But do wingnuts deserve a second of our time outside of our wonderful left-wing blogosphere)? No. Besides, do you really think a Barry tell-all would shut them up about this? No. Moving on.

The unknown number of liberals and Hispanics upset with Obama's cabinet and security selections? Please. A new NBC/WSJ poll shows that nearly 70% of Americans approve of Obama's selections. And really, did any rational Liberals think Obama was going to appoint hippies, activists, and community organizers to the most powerful board in the Federal government? We want competence and accountability in the Obama White House. On paper alone, his cabinet beats Bush's previous two.

The arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? Not Obama's problem. In fact John Dickerson's analysis of Obama's clean denial is utterly ridiculous. Dickerson used to be a rational critic of Bush's press conferences. But to argue that Obama's voluntary answer on the Blagojevich arrest suggests he has something to hide is infuriating. This is the Liberal media at work. And Dickerson was not the only reporter trying hard to bend and twist the story to somehow tie Obama to it. Of course I think Barry was either told to stay away from Blagojevich, or learned first-hand how corrupt he was. His office (David Axelrod or Rahm Emanuel) might have even dropped the dime on the governor. But that's the end of the story. This is not Obama's problem.

Another Astonishing George W. Bush Interview

I think a wise man named Ice Cube once said, "It ain't over motherfuckers." Bush ain't done yet. True, we've had astonishing interview moments from this president. He told Bob Woodward that 'we'll all be dead' by the time history judges him. He told xxx xxx that he had given-up golf in response to the prolonged occupation in Iraq and the higher-than-expected number of US military casualties. But now we have this. It is so revealing, sad, infuriating, and shocking all at once:

Chris Matthews: Joan I'm not sure what the message there is. Is the President saying in retrospect that he would not have invaded and occupied Iraq as a matter of geopolitical policy had there been no weapons of mass destruction? Is he saying that that was the single definitive reason why we went into that country and occupied it? Is that what he's saying?

Salon's Joan Walsh: Yes. It seems like it. Charlie Gibson did follow up with that question Chris and he wouldn't quite answer it. But I just have to say that is the most astonishing, buck passing, self pitying answer I could have imagined. He acts as though the Intelligence agencies where some wholly owned subsidiary of some other administration, rather than his, his responsibility. He acts like people outside the administration agreed when he was responsible for pushing that faulty intelligence, for stove piping it and ignoring everything. That any kind of doubt, any kind of dissent and really cooking the books in terms of the case for WMDs. I mean it's really scandalous how he's distancing himself.

Dhalgren Finally Learns That Twilight Is Huge In Utah

Daily Variety is an awesome publication. And you don't have to be a Hollywood insider or be in entertainment to appreciate it. My girl, who is nowhere near the entertainment industry, subscribes to it, and each Tuesday, there is a list of the highest-grossing movies in the country by theater. Usually, the list includes theaters such as AMC Empre 25 in Times Square, Regal Union Square 14, El Capitan Hollywood, or Pacific ArcLight Hollywood. But two weeks ago (the weekend of November 21-23), the numbers were flipped on their head. The New York and LA theaters were there, as well as AMC Garden State 16. So that's five of the top 10 - nothing too unusual there. But look at 4 of the other top 10 theaters:

1. Twilight, Larry Miller Megaplex 20, South Jordan, UT
2. Twilight, Larry Miller Jordan Commons 16, Sandy, UT
3. Bolt, El Capitan Hollwood, Hollywood, CA
4. Twilight, Pacific ArcLight Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA
5. Twilight, AMC Emprire 25, New York, NY
6. Twilight, Larry Miller Gateway Megaplex 12, Salt Lake City, UT
7. Twilight, Regal Union Square 14, New York, NY
8. Twilight, AMC Garden State 16, Paramus, NJ
9. Twilight, Larry Miller Megaplex 13, Ogden, UT
10. Twilight, Regal Irvine Spectrum 20, Irvine, CA

My girl saw the list and was immediately curious. Utah screens never appear in this list. So after some Google searching, we found this and this and this. While I do not believe that Twilight is Mormon proaganda, it is a case study in how a text from a Mormon artist (Stephanie Meyer) can attract and retain a strong Mormon following.

Also, financially speaking, it has been quite a year for Mormons. They spent millions sponsoring the campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California and they spent millions going to see Twilight. There is no connection, of course. But it is just so damn curious.

If someone told me two years ago that sanitized vampire fiction would be the runaway youth pop culture hit in the wake of the final Harry Potter book, I'd laugh out loud. I'm not laughing now. Sexless vampires are big business.

They Knew

They Damn Knew

The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents.

Obama's No-Nonsense National Security Team

If there was any doubt that Barry was going to hand-over national security to friends of self-interested folks, we give you this rather stunning announcement:

Even more stunning: the major announcement on Monday was not Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but General Jim Jones as his National Security Advisor. Having a retired 4-star marine general replace what has recently been a job for scholars (see Condoleezza Rice, Sauel Berger, W. Anthony Lake) marks a bold move by Barack Obama that nearly no one saw coming. At the very least, Jones' dominant, methodical personality will ensure that Hillary Clinton's diplomatic work is synchronized with the NSA and the Secretary of Defense. I don't think there was any serious worry that Clinton would be a freelancer, but the selection of Jones draws clear lines that Clinton cannot stray outside.

Obama has built himself what appears to be a very strong, smart, no-nonsense defense management team. While we cannot be certain, I cannot imagine the general shoe shopping on Madison Avenue or Secretary Clinton attending a Broadway show in August or any month. They know they have to run an air-tight operation, since it seems it would take much less than a drowning city to bring an Obama administration down.

Sadly, No!: Andrew Breitbart Proposes Making The GOP More Fabulous!

I couldn't possibly add to what Clif already did so brilliantly over at Sadly, No. So go to his post and see it for yourself.

Andrew Breitbart, a left-coast wingnut, wrote a piece in the Washington Times, suggesting that the GOP display a younger, more energetic image. And the examples he uses? The male models of Abercrombie & Fitch (who he assumes earn $15 per hour), raves (!), karaoke fundraisers, punk rockers, performance artists, and keggers. We think it both revealed Mr. Breitbart's assumptions of what the kids like today, as well as unintentionally revealed his sexual orientation.

Official Trailer For The Wrestler (2008)

Everyone likes a comeback. Kurt Russell in Stargate (1992). John Travolta in Pulp Fiction (1994). Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking (1995). Robert Downey Jr. in The Singing Dectective (2003) (a commercial flop, but his first feature after his early 2000's Ally McBeal rehab phase). Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man (2008). Mel Gibson (pending). Tom Cruise (pending).

I'm ready to jump on the bandwagon praising Mickey Rourke's comeback in The Wrestler (2008). However, being the cynic that I am, I expect his character to die of cardiac arrest after winning his big comeback bout. A sort of 'have one's cake and eat it too' ending. Also, the press kit states that his character was forced to retire after a previous heart attack, and that his character is seeking redemption, even though going back into the ring will probably cost him his life. And this is a Darren Aronofsky film (remember the feel-good Requiem for a Dream?) Yes, we have seen this movie before. It might be full of cliches. It might be totally predictable. But if it is well-executed, I'll cheer with the rest of the crowd. In a disappointing year for Hollywood movies, I need an uplifting cinema experience.


Buick Now Ready To Be Phased-Out

That is, if General Motors survives Chapter 11 restructuring.

In my opinion, GM kept the Buick brand alive for mainly two reasons. First, the brand was astonishingly popular in China, where Buick was somehow synonymous with the Sino nouveau riche (although the real nouveau riche in China drive British or German automobiles). And second, Tiger Woods had a 10-year endorsement deal with Buick. While Oldsmobile was discontinued, it's virtual corporate twin was kept alive because of China and Tiger.

Tiger and GM have agreed to end the endorsement deal one year early.

GM is well-known for its ladder / caste system of brands. Your first car is a Chevy. You then graduate to a Pontiac coupe (if you are single) or Oldsmobile sedan (if you are a family man). Later you get a second of the middle brands or switch to Buick if you've got gray hairs and/or play golf. And if you one day get that corner office (or make a bundle in an illegitimate business), you can step-up to the Cadillac. It was simple - 5 brands in a soccer-like 1-3-1 formation. In a perfect world, everyone graduates high school with a Chevy and dies with a Cadillac.

Along the way, GM expanded its lineup, and built impressive operations in Europe and Australia to make it sustainable and viable for the future. It founded Opel in Germany 50 years ago. It created Holden in muscle-car crazy Australia over 70 years ago. It bought Saab in 2000. In the last 25 years, it has partnered with Suzuki, Daewoo, Toyota, and Subaru (and even flirted with buying Subaru). And at the peak of the SUV boom in the US, it bought Hummer.

And alas, there's the problem. While it made big sedans for the Australian market and small cars for the Europe market, it continued to feed the US market SUVs well into the 2000s -far past their prime. With the most fuel efficient cars in their 2008 US portfolio limited to a rebranded Daewoo, a rebranded Toyota, two generic Chevy sedans, an Opel 2-seat sports car, an Opel hatchback, and the Saab 9-3, they would soon be in trouble.

So this may be too little too late, but I think the Buick brand is ready to be discontinued. If GM wants to survive, it is one of many steps they are going to have to take between now and March. And while they are at it, they should kill Pontiac as well, since that brand's last rear-wheel-drive cars, the Solstice and the Australian-made G8 are about to disappear from showrooms.

Random Sports Roundup

NFL: In the NFC Central, the Steelers won an odd Sunday, at home, under flurries, in a close game against the Chargers. Meanwhile the Baltimore Ravens were run-over by the New Jersey Giants. This makes the December 15th game between the Steelers and Ravens even more important. If I was employed, I'd go see it. I kinda like the Ravens. They have a literary name, a European-style crest, good fans (better than New Jersey or Philly fans, anyway), and a damn good coach and rush defense (except this past Sunday).

Red Sox 1: The Sox are apparently shopping Julio Lugo. If they get anything for him, that would be great. Take what you get and strengthen him in Pawtucket. Lugo was never a power hitter, but he used to be a good infielder. But even last year, that fell apart as he made 16 errors in his position (SS). Just stating the obvious - the Red Sox eventually need a star shortstop. They have had 6 different guys in that position since 2004. I like Kahalil Greene, who has 1 year left on his Padres contract. But ideally, they need a golden-glove candidate under the age of 30 in that spot. They need stability at Short, and so they need to scout/shop around.

Red Sox 2: Moot point department - The Red Sox front office sent Manny Ramirez a letter on July 25th, informing him that he was to be suspended for skipping-out of two consecutive games. Manny phoned-in and told them that he would play the next game (which he did). He was traded a week later to the Dodgers, led by Frank McCourt, Ned Colletti, and Joe Torre. Also, while Terry Francona has a reputation of taking care of clubhouse problems, there's no evidence that he sat Manny down for a talk regarding his insubordination. So what was the point of this story?

Red Sox 3: While the Red Sox need to find a star shortstop, they have an pretty good 3rd baseman in Kevin Youkilis, a Golden Glove 2nd baseman in Dustin Pedroia, and possibly an opening at 1st. That spot would go to Mark Teixeira, should the Red Sox pursue him. And if they pursue him, they would potentially have the highest bid, since the Yankees have opted to go after 1st baseman / outfielder Nick Swisher (who has been signed) and Indians starting pitcher CC Sabathia (who is contemplating the Yankees unspecified offer).
Red Sox 4: And Dustin Pedroia has been named 2008 American League MVP! The Sox fans weren't joking when they started chanting 'MVP!' in July. They called it. Kevin Youkilis came in 3rd in the MVP voting, while Chicago White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin came in 5th.
*Personal gaming footnote - in my 'alternate universe' season of MLB Power Pros 2007, I traded Laynce Nix to the Rangers for rookie Carlos Quentin. It was the only trade I completed that fantasy season, and it was a winner. Blind luck on my part.

Score a ton, shut the door, take a ride, Yuvraj.

Cricket: I think Yuvraj Singh made his international debut 8 years ago, when he was 18. He got my attention in July 2002 when he scored 69 crucial runs in the middle of India's batting order against England in an unforgettable 1-day match at Lord's. He is 26 now, and he's maturing as a star left-handed all-rounder. On Monday, he batted and bowled magnificently against England in Game 2 of a 7-game series in India. He batted 5th in India's order and scored 118 runs off of 122 balls (India's top scorer of the day). And as a bowler, he was even more impressive, going 4-28 (taking 4 wickets in 10 overs -that's 60 balls- and giving-up 28 runs). England probably won't win this series, but they did see a promising performance from 22 year-old fast bowler Stuart Broad, who also took 4 wickets. He was a hero in their triumphs over South Africa this past summer, and it looks like he has a very bright future. England have two test matches against India in December before touring the West Indies in February/March 2009.

Zima Ends Its 15-Year Run

The early 1990s are a period that profoundly changed the world and my young adult life. The Soviet Union collapsed. Americans fell in love with premium coffee and beer. Rock music got better. Singer-songwriters had a renaissance. Organic and vegan food became acceptable. And the internet made it possible to buy almost anything from anywhere.

And in any modern decade, certain relics of the era are remembered fondly for their ridiculousness or novel qualities. Some items, like Zubaz pants rose and fell quickly. (What? They're back? Good lord.) Some things were so good, that they just had to come back (see Stone Temple Pilots). And some things took a very long time to die. Case in point, Zima.

My girl was reading the current issue of New York Magazine. In their weekly "Approval Matrix" pop culture page, they mentioned the death of the clear malt beverage that should have gone away 10 years ago.

But it took a merger to get it done. Miller-Coors finally discontinued Zima on October 20th. It will be remembered, but not missed.