Saturday, November 01, 2008

And the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Page Devolves into Shameless Nonsense, Courtesy of Fouad Ajami

Actually, I can't say that I've consistently read and rated the pieces that have appeared on the Wall Street Journal's opinion pages, but as a fairly regular reader it does seem to me that they are becoming less thoughtful and more ridiculous as 11/4 draws near. A current and most egregious example of this trend being Fouad Ajami's Obama and the Politics of Crowds.

There is nothing more distasteful to me that the use of blatantly disingenuous arguments designed to manipulate the stupid. And this crap is a textbook example of the craft.

Here's how it begins:

"There is something odd -- and dare I say novel -- in American politics about the crowds that have been greeting Barack Obama on his campaign trail. Hitherto, crowds have not been a prominent feature of American politics. We associate them with the temper of Third World societies. We think of places like Argentina and Egypt and Iran, of multitudes brought together by their zeal for a Peron or a Nasser or a Khomeini."

First, really? Obama rallies remind 'us' of Peron, Nasser and Khomeni? Don't waste any time making your piece read like an Onion-esque farce, eh, Fouad?. I guess if you're going to shovel bullshit, don't half step. I'm sure if somehow a McCain / Palin rally actually attracted more than 400 wackos and old folks enticed by the free lemonade you would make the same connection to Khomeni. No doubt, because you have no agenda in writing this piece other than academic examination, I'm sure.

Second, who is "we"? Is there a mouse in your pocket, Fouad? Or are you just using the first person plural as a way to provide faux validation for any latent conspiracy theories swimming around the twisted minds of suggestible swing staters?

He wraps up with more of the same:

"In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies."

Hey, Rupert, why not just print "Obama is an Arab that no one can trust!" cut the rest of Ajami's drivel and use the space for more expensive watch ads appealing to douchebags who measure their self-worth in the number of fancy accessories they own? Really would have been about the same effect and put another $5,000 - $10,000 in the coffers.

This garbage from Ajami is worse than thinly veiled fear mongering. It appeals to people's worst instincts. I don't know why I expect WSJ to stay out of the sty where Ann Coulter and others spew and defecate on themselves with hateful and juvenile use of references like "B. Hussein Obama".

I suppose I no longer should have those expectations of WSJ. Perhaps this is the Murdoch effect that was widely feared. Maybe I'm just late to this realization.

Murdoch should be embarrassed, WSJ's editors should be embarrassed and Ajami, if I thought he was capable of shame, should be embarrassed. This is a most amateurish hack job in the mold of C-tier legal firms who deploy the strategy of 'let's have the our token African American attorney prosecute the African American defendant to defuse any potential claims of racism in this case'. The implicit message to Carl Q. Applebottom in Lafayette, Indiana (or Erie, Pa ... or Jacksonville, FL) is, "Hey, it's okay to play the Arab mob mentality card while indicting 'Obamamania', because look, the guy who wrote this is also an Arab." And all you racist-leaning non-Arabs can therefore feel comforted in your bigotry by the fact that even Arabs, like our man Fouad here, don't trust Obama.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Still Waiting for the Novelty License Plate to End all Novelty Plates: IMA JKASS

Saw this on the road yesterday.

Prius with jackass novelty plate

If you can't quite make out the plate, I tried to zoom in a bit with my limited photo 'editing' skills.

prius owner jackass nv my mpg

It reads NV MY MPG.

Really? For better or worse, the Prius has already become something of a polarizing statement, even when they aren't plastered with juvenile, antagonistic messages.

Now, to be clear, I am not a Prius hater. Far from it. I have rented a Prius and enjoyed it. I know, like and respect a number of people who manage to own Priuses without feeling the need to congratulate themselves on their environmental consciousness and economic savvy via novelty license plates. And I own a Toyota Yaris, so I'm all for great "MPG" (yay!).

But "NV MY MPG"? Come one. That's not funny. That's just being a jackass.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama vs McCain - Judgment

Catching up on my reading this lazy Saturday and just finished this article:
Volcker Makes a Comeback as Part of Obama Brain Trust.

Good read. And another argument for supporting Obama, who has the talent and leadership skills to earn the confidence of people like Buffet and Volcker combined with the judgment to seek out and incorporate into his policies the input of such experts. Or, you could count on McCain's judgment in picking Palin as VP candidate and Palin's "executive experience" as mayor of Wasila, AK and governor of a state smaller than ~20 u.s. cities. The choice is yours.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Full Video of Obama & Joe the Plumber: Why the Sound Bite Sucks

Last night on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olberman I saw for the first time the entire exchange between Obama and Joe the Plumber (video below). It not only confirmed what I previously suspected -- that McCain's co-opting of Joe the Plumber's cause was total bullshit -- but it made me ever more disappointed in the state of our tv "news media" than I was before. How is it that this full exchange is just getting on air now? We had all the sound bite sensationalism (spread the wealth! spread the wealth!) for what, one week? two weeks? - without anyone (at least that I saw) really looking at the full exchange and breaking it down.

* Taxes on the first $250,000 of income stay the same as they are now.
Higher tax rate only applies to the incremental income above $250,000. It isn't in effect from first dollar. So the tax obligation on income from $250,001 - $300,000 is $19,500 instead of $18,000. A difference of $1,500. Roughly $30/week over the course of a year. $300,000 in income calculates out to $5,769 / week. $30/week in incremental taxes is not going to break anyone. And it's not going to hinder job creation.

* Lower taxes on the way up.
Around 1:45 into the discussion Obama explains to Joe how his tax plan would have benefited him during his early/apprentice years and likely accelerated his savings timeline, enabling him to purchase the business sooner. Unless you're handed a fully functioning small business or otherwise don't need to worry about your path to owning one, this should be of interest to you. If you have already achieved success and care more about protecting/hoarding what you have than about creating an easier path for others to follow, this will not interest you. Either way, I haven't heard this aspect of the discussion covered much by America's "tv news".

* Benefits of customers having disposable income
About 4:30 into the video Obama makes the point about Joe's customer base having more disposable income, enabling them to hire Joe at his comfortable plumber's hourly rate. That's kind of an important part of the small business equation, no?

* Capital Gains
About 5:00 in he talks about how his capital gains tax plan would benefit Joe more than the existing capital gains tax if/when Joe sells his business. That's a pretty big factor in benefiting from one's one wealth creation, isn't it?

I realize all this requires people to step out of their comfort zone and actually pay attention and be open minded enough to actually listen and process what is being said rather than resorting to the typical and more comfortable snap reaction cum knee-jerk judgment based upon a sound bite. It also will appeal more to folks who have an appreciation for the bigger picture or longer term view rather than what's in my best interests over the next 5 minutes. So I am not surprised by how it has been covered by the media or how McCain/Palin have seized upon the most dramatic and least relevant sound bite as a way to fire up the non-thinking, rabid dog faction of their support base. But I need to vent about it nonetheless.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Red States, Blue States, Fat States, Dumb States ... Some U.S. Maps to Consider During this Election

Through this whole election cycle I've often thought 'who the hell would really vote that way?' (for example, when West Virginia voted for Hillary over Obama by something like a 5 -1 margin). But after the primaries were all settled I let my mind focus on other things for a while. Like how Mets manager Jerry Manuel looks like he should be playing clarinet in a smoky jazz club, or how Michelle Obama looks like an odd cross between Sigourney Weaver and Emmanuel Lewis. But now that we're getting close to crunch time and I see Palin's vacuous head filling my TV screen far too often, usually making some close-minded, ill-informed comment in her uniquely smarmy fashion, I have to ask myself -- nay, I ask America -- who the hell would really vote for McCain / Palin?

So I did a little looking around to see what else I could learn about the states that are leaning toward the McCain / Palin ticket. Below is a bit of what I found. I realize that tracking this information at the state level is far from ideal. Chicago holds little in common with Carbondale, for example, other than being in Illinois. But getting this kind of data at the county or congressional district would take forever and I have already spent way too much time on this. That said, take all these observations with a grain of salt.

Note: In all instances, McCain / Obama polling data is from USA Today's Presidential poll tracker. Also, clicking on the images will let you see a larger version of it over on Photobucket.


First, from the US Census, a chart mapping attainment of at least a Bachelor's degree by state.

P25+ with Bachelor's Degree + McCain & Obama polling data

Of the 27 states where less than 25.9% of the population holds a Bachelor's degree:
McCain - 16
Obama - 7
TBD - 4
If I were a betting man I'd say this will end up either 18 - 9 or 19 - 8, McCain

Of the 23 states where more than 26.6% of the population holds a Bachelor's degree:
McCain - 6
Obama - 15
TBD - 2
This will likely go 16 - 7, Obama. If northern Virginia goes heavily Obama, maybe it goes 17 - 6.

Mobile Homes & Trailers

Next, also from the US Census, a look at % of homes that are either mobile homes or trailers.

U.S. States % of Housing as Mobile Homes or Trailers & McCain & Obama polling data

In the 26 states where more than 6.7% of homes are mobile homes or trailers:
McCain - 17
Obama - 6
TBD - 3
And it's looking like this will end up 20 - 6, McCain.

In the 24 states where less than 6.0% of homes are mobile homes or trailers:
McCain - 5
Obama - 16
TBD - 3
Likely to go 17 - 7 for Obama, maybe 18 - 6 Obama.


Next, from Strange Maps with data from the CDC, we look at a map that illustrates relative obesity rates.

U.S. Obesity Rates by State and McCain & Obama polling data

Among the 32 states with obesity rates higher than 24%:
McCain - 17
Obama - 10
TBD - 5
Likely to go either 22 - 10 or 21 - 11 McCain.

Among the 18 states with obesity rates lower than 24%:
McCain - 5
Obama - 12
TBD - 1
Likely to go 13 - 5 Obama

"Values" - Divorce & Teen Birth Rates

Taking a quick look at some "values" issues, I found a couple of charts over at Talk To Action using National Center of Health Statistics data that illustrated divorce rates and teen birth rates.

2004 US divorce rates by state + obama mccain polling data

Surprised to see so many of the green, low divorce rate states skewing toward Obama, the guy who "doesn't see America the way you and I do" (according to I'll-say-anything-because-I'm-nothing-more-than-an-empty-vessel-with-an-extremely-narrow-and-inflexible-world-view Sarah Palin).

2004 Teen Birth rates by state + mccain and obama polling data

Interestingly, Obama also seems to be carrying more of the lower teen birth rate states. Weird, huh? Thought Republicans owned "values".


I also found a couple of maps that illustrated the degree of religiousness and the type of faith that is most common by county. I am far from being an expert on religion, but it did seem to me that a few relatively major religions were absent (say, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism). These defy neat tallying like the earlier charts, but, nonetheless, I had the maps, the Obama logo and the McCain head, so I plotted these, too. Seems like there is some correlation (or just some pretty strong coincidence) of high divorce rates, high mobile home ownership, high teen birth rates, high obesity rates and intense religiousness. And they all like McCain/Palin.

Faith by state & Obama & McCain polling data
Map source: Strange Maps.

Religious adherents by state and McCain Obama polling data
Map source: The Daily Irrelevant.

The Legacy of Slavery

And I also found a map of state/territory slavery policy from pre-Civil War times. Anyone who says race isn't a factor in this election is kidding themselves. Wow.

Pre-Civil War map of slavery policies and mccain obama polling data

Finally, it's worth noting that while I was doing the research for this post I found that someone else, David Pakman, was doing similar analysis. He takes a couple of different looks at a similar concept, so check that out, too, if you're interested.

UPDATE 10/12/08: "We don't need no A-rab president"

Doing a little red state / blue state search this morning and one of the results I found the video below, posted by Andrew Sullivan. All your worst fears live and with pictures and sound - the wonder of YouTube, no?

ADDITIONAL UPDATE 10/12/08: Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State

Looks like there is a lot of useful data and discussion over at Andrew Gelman's blog, which is a companion piece to his book, Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

500,000 Reasons to Pay Attention to the Market & Your 401K Plan

An invaluable lesson learned the hard way
In 2000 & 2001 I saw my modest 401k cut by two thirds, as the NASDAQ went from 5,000 to 1,800. I thought I was doing everything right. I had been contributing with every paycheck. Had aggressive allocations since I was still a relative youngster. Thought everything was fine (there was still a touch of that go-go 90s vibe in the air, after all). But after I had settled into my new job and went through the process of setting up a new 401K and rolling over the old one into a Roth IRA, I had a WTF kind of moment. Two thirds - gone. That's nuts. I didn't know what to do, but I knew there had to be a better way.

I wish I could remember exactly how I found Dick Fabian's Mutual Fund Wealth Builder, because if anyone tipped me off I want to give them proper credit. But I may have just found it in Borders. And it changed my life. I know that might sound pretty weird and cultish, but it's true. His message isn't complicated. It gets pretty repetitive in places it definitely has stretches of high corniness. But the bottom line is he outlines a straightforward approach that is easy to follow and it can save your @ss in years like 2008.

The point is there are macro market trends that can give you a 'red light' or 'green light' kind of signal. Either get to safety and wait out the down draft, or get back on the elevator up.

I'm oversimplifying here, but if you see a couple of major, broad market indicators close below their 200-day moving average, that's a bad sign. On December 27, 2007, the S&P 500 dropped below its 200 day moving average.

S&P 500 October 2007 - 2008; source Yahoo! Finance
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance
S&P 500 closes below its 200 day moving average on 12/27/07

That was a real crap time for it to break down because I personally wasn't paying as close attention as I usually do. And by the following Friday the S&P was down ~7% from November (seems like a quaint concern these days, though). If I was truly adhering to the system I would have reallocated my 401k out of traditional 'long' equity funds and gotten to safer ground with the S&P still around 1,478. Because I had seen this kind of show before and it wasn't pretty.

S&P500 April 1996 - October 2008
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance
S&P 500 breaks down in September 2000, beginning a downtrend that didn't turn until March 2003, after a drop of ~33%.

But I didn't. I waited a little bit, in case it was a false signal. I looked for it to get back up above its 50-day moving average as a sign. By late February that wasn't looking likely and I got out when the S&P was around 1,380. Took a little hit, but it could be absorbed. Comes with the territory, as they say.

That's the good news (for me, anyway). The problem is then that my 401K plan doesn't have any choices designed to really grow even during a bear market. We have a couple of short term income funds and a bunch of longer term funds that are great as long as the broader markets are great. In case you hadn't noticed, the broader markets haven't been great this year.

Most of my current 401k options have tanked along with the market

Here's how it looked yesterday when I pulled up the performance table. Not good times.

Publicis 401K options
Publicis Groupe 401K choices

Publicis 401k options
Publicis Groupe 401K choices

And you can see in this series of charts comparing the individual funds to the S&P 500 year-to-date that they all have been taking the same ugly ride down.
Note: charts were grabbed last night, before things got even uglier today. Also, the S&P is the red line in each chart, the blue line is the specific fund being compared to the S&P.

T. Rowe Price Growth Stock (PRGFX) - year to date
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

Artisan Mid Cap Inv (ARTMX) - year to date
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

American Beacon Small Cp Val Inst (AVFIX) - year to date
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

Hotchkis and Wiley Mid-Cap Value I (HWMIX)
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

Fidelity Freedom 2025 (FFTWX) - year to date
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

Fidelity Freedom 2040 (FFFFX) - year to date
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

Fidelity Freedom 2010 (FFFCX) - year to date
This is one of my favorites. Designed for those getting ready to retire in 2010. Should be getting into pretty 'safe' territory here. Down 25% year to date. Good grief.
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

Fidelity Contrafund (FCNTX) - year to date
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

One of two options I have in my 401K where I wouldn't have gotten crushed by this most recent downturn is PTTRX. Fortunately this is where I moved everything back in February. Those who advocate buy and hold, dollar cost averaging on the way down, smart and safe asset allocation and other similar nonsense would have howled at this move. But, Dick Fabian's red light / green light system tells me to move. I moved.

PIMCO Total Return Instl (PTTRX) - year to date
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

The options I wish I had in my 401K

Earlier this year I asked someone in corporate HR about getting a bear market fund option in our 401k. I was told that kind of vehicle was speculative and irresponsible (I'm paraphrasing as I can't find the email to get the exact language). I was told, however, I could make a formal request in writing with some rationale. I might direct them to this post. What seems irresponsible to me is that some people are in a two-years-until-retirement fund and getting 25% of their @sses handed to them in 9+ months.

Wouldn't it have been nice if I could have allocated some share of my balance and ongoing contributions to one of these three?

Again, charts are as of last night, S&P is red, highlighted fund is blue

Prudent Bear (BEARX)- year to date up >20%
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

Rydex Inverse S&P 500 Strategy Inv (RYURX)- year to date up >40%
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

Grizzly Short (GRZZX) - year to date up >60%
Image Source: Yahoo! Finance

It would have been more than 'nice'. It could have made an enormous difference in people's 401k balances 30 years from now. To illustrate exactly how much of a difference it could have made, I ran a few simple scenarios.

The bottom line break down


- Initial 401K balance of $50,000 when S&P 500 triggers the bear market alarm as it did on 12/27/2007
- A total drop of 33.3% in the S&P before it triggers it's next bull market alarm (at yesterday's close of 984.84, the S&P was 33.3% below its 12/27/07 close of 1476.27
- After the 33.3% drop, no further contributions are made and all portfolios make 8% annual returns for 30 years

- Portfolio A does not get out at time of the bear market trigger and rides down with the S&P
End balance: $335,647

- Portfolio B gets out at the time of the bear market trigger and stays in cash on the sidelines
End balance: $503,133

- Portfolio C gets out at the time of the bear market trigger and reallocates to 50% cash, 50% a bear market fund designed to deliver returns inverse to the S&P
End balance: $586,876

- Portfolio D gets out at the time of the bear market trigger and reallocates 100% to a bear market fund designed to deliver returns inverse to the S&P
End balance: $670,619

- Portfolio E gets out at the time of the bear market trigger and reallocates 100% to a bear market fund designed to deliver returns that are twice the inverse of the S&P
End balance: $838,105

Now, depending upon the size of your initial stake at the trigger date, the absolute numbers will vary. But whether you have $5,000 and are just starting or $1,000,000 and are close to finishing, the percentages are the same.

* Take a 33% hit and it will take you ~6 years to get back to even at 8% per year.

* Get on the sideline and wait for the next up trend and you finish with 50% more money.

* Get out and reallocate into an aggressive bear market fund and you could have an extra $500,000 in 30-years. But, that might be speculative and irresponsible. Best to just put your lil' eggs in something nice, like FFFCX.

UPDATE 11/3/2009:
Paragraphs below speak to the value of avoiding losses. Rest of the article ('Cruel Math of Big Losses') provides some conventional tips for those who might not be comfortable with technical trend analysis as an approach for sidestepping these big losses.

"If an investment declines 10%, it takes about an 11% gain to break even (assuming you don't pump in additional dollars). If the drop is 20%, you need a 25% gain to recover. A fall of one-third requires a rebound of 50%. And if your investment falls by half, "you need a double," or a 100% return, says Mr. Wiener, the New York-based editor of the Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors. The recovery percentages grow exponentially because you have so few dollars working for you after a big loss.

Last year, the average diversified U.S.-stock fund was down 37.5%—requiring a 60% advance to break even—and plenty of funds were down 50% or more. Investors looking at this year's performance listings should know that some big gainers are volatile funds that were big losers last year; thus, investors' holdings may still be worth far less than they were in late 2007."

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Tale of Two Bags - High Sierra Sport's Customer Service Comes Through

Earlier this year I bought two carry on expandable bags from High Sierra Sport . One has been through maybe 15 - 20 trips and is still solid. The other starting falling apart after trip number 3 or 4.

High Sierra defective bag
Note the left wheel caving in. It sticks like that, which kind of nullifies the whole rolling concept.

High Sierra defective bag

Below you can see how the handle grip started unraveling
High Sierra defective bag

This was pretty disappointing. And because I am sometimes a lazy procrastinator, I didn't take my receipt to the place where I bought it (the Randolph location of City Traveler) within the 60 or 90 day return window. But the bag was still covered by its warranty. And while it took more back and forth via email that it probably should have to get a response from High Sierra's customer service folks, I have to say that once I did connect with them and sent back the pieces they needed to confirm what kind of replacement bag I needed, they got the new bag to me within two or three days.

And my sweet orange bag and I are back in business.

High Sierra replacement bag

High Sierra replacement bag

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pictures from NLDS Game 1 - Cubs v Dodgers

Well, I was luckier than the Cubs were. By far. What I saw was the first game of a sweep that has broken hearts all over Illinois. But, for it's worth, I had a great view.

2008 NLDS Game 1 Cubs v Dodgers - ticket
Aisle BLPN33 Row B Seat 3

2008 NLDS Game 1 Cubs v Dodgers
You know your seats are good when you're right next to the photographer well

Cubs Dodgers - Manny on 1st base
Manny on first

Cubs Dodgers - crowd isn't happy
Long faces and rally hats - not a good sign

Cubs Dodgers Greg Maddox pitching in mop up duty
Greg Maddux pitching mop up in the 9th. Weird.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My Lucky @ss is Heading to the Cubs Game

Not only that, but I have a preposterously good seat, thanks to the very kind folks at Tribune Interactive.

ridiculously good seats at NLDS game 1, Cubs & Dodgers

Cold or not, this will be fantastic. And I have no qualms whatsoever rooting against Lowe, Nomah and Manny (would be different story if it were, say, Wake, Youk and Papi who had defected the Nation).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shouldn't Jerry Manuel be Holding a Clarinet or Something?

A couple weeks ago I was watching SportsCenter and saw some shot of Jerry Manuel out of uniform, wearing maybe a grey t-shirt, seated with his back against a mostly blank wall, looking up toward the cameras. Something about that just made me think he should be on stage at an old jazz club holding a clarinet rather than filling out major league lineups. While I couldn't find that image of Manuel, the images below give you a sense of what I was thinking. The shot of George Lewis, in particular, is uncanny in how well it captures what I imagined. Manuel has a bit more of a beatnik look, but still, this is pretty close.

Collage of Jerry Manuel, George Lewis and Blue Note records studio scene

Image sources: Jerry Manuel, Zimbio / Jeff Gross - Getty Images; George Lewis, George Lewis Society; Blue Note, Martin & Jopparelli

Friday, September 26, 2008

Supporting Clean Energy Candidates - Message from Al Gore / MoveOn

I haven't taken any action on this email I received from MoveOn on 9/18, but I'm thinking about it. I like the fact that it's specific, succinct (relatively - and it formats a bit better in my inbox as I haven't done much to clean it up here) and provides a clear next step. Good stuff.


Subject: Obama's going to need some help

Al Gore, Political Action
Thu, Sep 18, 2008 at 12:30 PM
To: art sindlinger <>>

Barack Obama could "repower America" using clean, cheap energy sources. But he'll need us to elect more clean-energy champions in the Senate to stand up to the oil lobbyists. Can you help elect three champions of clean energy who are in close Senate races?

Make a donation

Dear MoveOn member,

Elections matter. We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track. I'm personally focused on what I think is the greatest threat and greatest opportunity—averting the climate crisis and "repowering America" using clean, cheap energy sources. That's why I'm supporting Barack Obama. He's the sort of transformational leader who could move us through such deep, structural change.

But trust me, Barack can only succeed if we also elect more champions in the Senate to stand up to the incredibly powerful oil lobby.

Those leaders are emerging—and three of them are in close Senate races. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mark Udall in Colorado, and Al Franken in Minnesota are all real, clean-energy heroes who need our help to win. And they're fighting against Republicans who have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the oil industry.

Can you help elect three champions of clean energy to the Senate? You can donate by clicking here:

At the convention, I said that the oil industry has a 50-year lease on the Republican Party. And they're drilling it for everything it's worth. Unfortunately, this is no joke. It's the sad truth. Look at what's going on in Congress right now. We're in an energy crisis, and the burgeoning solar and wind power business is on the edge of shutting down—because Republicans are blocking the tax incentives they count on. Yet they'll fight to the death for huge oil industry subsidies.

This election offers us our best chance ever to elect leaders who will switch our economy to home-grown, renewable, zero-carbon energy—and restore our economic health, our national security, and stabilize our climate.

Here's a little about these good folks:

* Kay Hagan is a North Carolina state senator and a strong supporter of solar power. She pushed to require North Carolina utilities to adopt renewable energy.
* Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado has one of the highest lifetime scores in Congress from the League of Conservation Voters. His opponent is a former congressman turned oil executive who makes oil deals in Iraq.
* Al Franken is fighting for green jobs in his home state of Minnesota. He's proposing a national "Apollo project" to fuel the development of new technologies in clean and renewable energy.

You can read more by clicking below.

Will you join me in supporting three champions of clean energy? They really need our help. Just click here:

And thanks so much for all you do,

Al Gore

Saturday, September 20, 2008

21 Hours in New York

Had a quick trip for some meetings. Managed to pack a few things into 21 hours.

Stayed at the Flatotel (see my review).

Flatotel rm 910

They didn't have a mini bar, so I found Cafe Duke, which was brilliant (another mini review).

Cafe Duke

Look past the piles of trash - place is brilliant inside

Had some meetings at ESPN. Love this particular wall whenever I see it.


Enjoyed a nice lunch at The Palm.

Parmesan truffle fries @ the palm

'Parmesan Truffle Fries' with the Palm's beer (sort of Bass like)

tuna burger @ the palm

Ground Ahi Tuna burger with sweet potato fries (which were brilliant)

Got 5 minutes of fresh air on a brilliant late summer afternoon that felt like fall.


And saw one of the MNF out of home installations with the turf effect.

MNF OOH near ESPN's ofc

Touring the ESPN Campus in Bristol, CT

ESPN Tour - my official visitor badge
(People who still call me "Arthur": my mom, and the security desk folks at ESPN)

As my wife likes to remind me weekly, I am spoiled.

I get to do some pretty cool things in the name of 'work'. Nice meals, big games, etc. And over time you get used to some of these things as 'coming with the territory'. I wouldn't say you take them for granted, but after 8+ years of it the 'wow' effect isn't as strong as it was, say for example, the very first time I got an afternoon of free beer, sun and baseball on a rooftop in Wrigleyville.

However, every now and then you get to do something really cool and unique that snaps you out of your nonchalance and reminds you how freaking lucky you are not to still be writing table tent copy promoting monthly catering specials for a local bagel bakery chain (although those were good times, too, in their own way).

On Monday September 8th, I got to log work hours that involved touring some of the ESPN campus in Bristol, CT.

ESPN tour

It was literally like this SportsCenter commercial with Peyton and Eli Manning.

At one point we were in that hallway and our host pointed out that yes, it was the hallway from that commercial. I resisted the urge to back trip one of my colleagues.

Below is a shot of a mini football field which you may or may not see figure into an NFL Countdown this season. Would be nice to see the guys take their mini run throughs outside once or twice.


Pretty cool hallway. Wouldn't be bad walking through that everyday.


Unfortunately there weren't any games going on when we were there, but we were told it can get pretty heated on this court.


The set where NFL Live is shot. One of a number of studios we got to see that day.


Early days shot of Berman. One of many classic pictures hanging on the walls.


The NASCAR studio. That car was actually raced once by Tony Stewart. I've been to one race but never got this close to a car. Much more compact than you might imagine seeing them on TV.



At one point during the tour we got to "see the sausage being made", if you will. They were producing a quick phone interview between Bob Ley and Bobby Knight, getting Coach Knight's reflections about Don Haskins, who had died over the weekend. Was pretty interesting seeing all the logistics involved in putting that together. The areas highlighted by the yellow boxes are (1) the graphic slate showing a head shot of Coach Knight and something like a 'by phone' note, and (2) Bob Ley in the studio doing whatever he does while the production folks patch the call together and whatnot. Got to hear Knight refer to Haskins as a 'tough, honest son of a bitch' or something along those lines.

espn control room interview bob ley and bobby knight

Other notable things that I didn't capture with my Helio:

- Linda Cohn walked right by us while I was txting someone about something. So I missed seeing her directly, but through my peripheral vision I would estimate she's like 5'1", tops.

- At one point Kordell Stewart and Jamaal Anderson also walked past us. Jamaal Anderson is listed as 5'11". No way that's true. Maybe 5'9". And, for what it's worth, he has his own MySpace page.

All in all, pretty damn cool.