Monday, November 23, 2020

Nick of Time

A Gheorghie who shall remain nameless thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the rags to riches story of the world's chubbiest parrot turned champion in the comments section. Do we not all know G:TB Rule #1? 

For those that need a refresher, right there on the first page of the G:TB Style Guide, even before the correct spelling of dipshittery and the proper usage of extra h's, it says in boldfaced, all-caps type: POSTCOUNT!

And so we were fortunate to rescue this piece from the commentariat, and share with you now. Behold the Kākāpō, winner for the second time of New Zealand's Bird of the Year award:

I know what you're thinking. I, too, had no idea New Zealand had such a prestigious award, and I'm stunned that the kiwi hasn't retired the title.

The Kākāpō is a gloriously funky-looking beast, a waddling, round, knife-beaked thing. They're also very endangered, with only 209 alive today. The Bird of the Year program is intended to bring awareness to endangered birds, and help raise funds for breeding programs. There's good news to share on that front. Experts expect 75 Kākāpō chicks to survive this year, and for a species that can live as long as 90 years, that's a great generation.

So enjoy our round-bellied friend, and reflect for a moment on Rule #1. Have a day, Gheorghies.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Fashion is...not dumb?

TR sent me another doozy. As an expert in novelty socks, I think it is dumb. He was either being sarcastic, or genuinely thinks this is not dumb. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Note from TR: First off, I was in the scotch when I sent, so anything I said should be discounted. Second, these are not awesome in the sense that I want to own them and wear them. They are awesome in the theoretical sense that I will one day see people wearing these at sporting events, amusement parks, while hiking somewhere, or at my local Sears. Just knowing they are out there in the world makes me happy. First one of you to capture real-life usage in a photo gets a real mule. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Memoirs of a Jump-Shooting President

Barack Obama has been in public view lately, campaigning for his former wing man and President-elect, Joe Biden, and hawking his presidential memoir. Aside from the obvious question – How many memoirs is a guy permitted? He’s up to three, with at least one more coming – it’s been a nice reminder of a president who conducts himself with intelligence and grace and who can actually put sentences together.

Obama’s current book, A Promised Land, checks in at a hefty 768 pages and covers childhood through
the Bin Laden raid in 2011. According to early reviews, and the author himself, it’s heavy on context and attempts to walk readers through not only events, but why he thought and acted certain ways. Apparently, he’s saving some of the more byzantine political maneuvering and extended thoughts on various Congressfolk and Heavy Hitters for the second volume.

A willingness to sign off on Obama’s versions, or at least give him the benefit of the doubt, likely depends on one’s political leanings. There's much to admire, and plenty to criticize – lack of accountability and prosecution of the Wall Street and finance smart guys who crashed the economy, Affordable Care Act overreach and mis-reads, overseas drone strikes and too many dead civilians, expansion of domestic surveillance under his watch, reticence to publicly call out Russian ratf*cking (to resurrect a Watergate phrase) of the 2016 election to induce chaos and assist our current president.

But as the site’s media grump, allow me to focus on transparency and open government. When Obama took office, he vowed that his administration would be the most transparent in history. He wrote a memo shortly after his first inauguration that read: “the government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosures, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”

His Department of Justice then prosecuted whistleblowers at an unprecedented rate. They did so under the auspices of the 1917 Espionage Act, which was designed to prevent people leaking secrets to foreign governments, not the media. They collected phone records of Associated Press reporters in one case. They threatened a New York Times investigative reporter with jail time about a story. They named a Fox News reporter a co-conspirator in a case involving a leak. In 2015 alone, his administration rejected 596,000 requests, 77 percent, under the Freedom of Information Act, the 1967 statute that allows citizens to request government documents from any agency. The government is supposed to comply, though exemptions are made in cases involving personal privacy, national security and law enforcement, among other areas. Many reporters have stories of beating their heads against government walls over FOIA requests. Agencies bury requests, cite specious privacy or security restrictions, say that requests are too broad and unreasonable, and often, a personal favorite, respond with, “whoops, we can’t find it; sorry.” Oversight and appeals are spotty, at best.

Granted, FOIA requests don’t cross the president’s desk, so an argument can be made that a bloated bureaucracy overwhelmed executive aims. But prosecuting government whistleblowers such as former National Security Agency officer Thomas Drake and former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling certainly crossed his radar. It also spooked many government officials who might have come forward to identify problems and issues, or at least spoken out as anonymous sources. The reluctance also trickled down to agencies that have nothing to do with national security such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Food and Drug Administration, for fear of retaliation, even though protections are supposed to be in place.

Obama drew heavy criticism from plenty of watchdog groups. The Committee to Protect Journalists, for one, issued a report during his second term in which New York Times national security reporter David Sanger said, “This is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered.” Now-retired ABC News reporter Ann Compton said, “He’s the least transparent of the seven presidents I’ve covered in terms of how he does his daily business.” Committee president at the time, former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr., said the administration’s efforts to quell leaks and control information were the most aggressive since Nixon.

All of these gripes sound almost quaint, given the past four years under President Enemies of the People. Yet despite Obama’s early rhetoric and present concerns, he was no reliable champion of the press in office, even if he remains a good quote and would be the No. 1 pick in any presidential pickup hoops draft. Given the assault on the media, particularly local news, from forces within and without, and the rise of disinformation and “alternative facts” that will fill that void, journalism is only going to get more difficult. Vigilance is more vital than ever.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

I am a Terrible Person Because This Headline Made Me Laugh

I have never been to Tyler, TX, which is about 90 minutes east of Dallas, but I am familiar with Greenberg Smoked Turkeys. A year ago, a work client surprised me at the office by sending a giant smoked turkey as a thank you gift for work I did with them that year. This was a thoughtful gift, but a suboptimal one for somebody who commutes to/from New York. Nevertheless, I lugged it from my office to the ferry to my car and to my home and fed it to the family. They did not love the turkey, which was SUPER SMOKY. I did though. And my dog did too. But he doesn't really count because he eats rabbit shit by choice. Here is a photo of the turkey from a year ago, before I started carving it. 

With this experience, I had some context for the following headline that I ran into on Twitter last night. And yes, I immediately laughed when I read it. I'm terrible. 

The big question - why use the word exploded? Why not perished or killed? They are animals, not popcorn kernels. It totally changed my perception of the event and made me think of exploding fem-bots from the Austin Powers movie. 

And while we (or me, at the very least) are being heartless, let's just take this to the logical next level with a hat-tip to our annual Thanksgiving post: As God is my witness...

In closing, in a more somber tone, this really is a catastrophe for a small business. The company now has to refund orders ahead of its busy season. But the company has vowed to come back in 2021. If you like really really really smoky meat, you will like this turkey. It was a bit much, even for my open-minded palate, but perhaps I should plan to put in an order in 2021 after making light of this event. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Humans, Occasionally Cool

Dylan Efron (yes, he's from that Efron family) has a pretty cool gig. He's billed professionally as an adventurer (while he also acts, writes, and produces), and he travels the world (or did, until recently) doing cool stuff and seeking ways to help people live more sustainably. He also hosts a video blog series for Firestone Walker Brewing, which is where he came to my attention.

Entitled 'Flow State', Efron's series sees him taking professional athletes and celebrities from Los Angeles to do things that take them out of their comfort zones. In Episode One, he goes rock climbing with badass professional skateboarder (and self-professed acrophobic) Leticia Bufoni. It's a cool watch, featuring folks that seem genuine and good-natured. 

Dig it - it's a nice week-starting vibe.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Gheorghasbord: Great Tits in Crisis

Sometimes the moment meets the man. Or the woman. Given the circumstances, it's difficult to say. The Independent Tweeted this earlier in the week:

The Dread Pirate Roberts, Wesley version, applauds. Scientists, too, because they found a way to make the drastic changes to the Earth's climate mean something to the fuckboi community, if only for a moment. But for reals, as Spring comes earlier and earlier, larvae hatch earler, and immature tits have a harder time finding food. Someone give TR the book report version of this. Pretty sure he started weeping at the headline and never got this far.

Thought that story was worth above the fold treatment, and I'm kinda feeling like I intro every post in roughly the same way, so we're mixing it up in this 'sbord. But there's a lotta fun shit happening, so we need to let it out into the world.

For example, zman sent me some porn this week. I'm not really a car guy, but I am a design guy, and
I've learned a bunch from z about cars during the G:TB era. So much so that he thought I'm growns up enough to handle Sports Car Market magazine, which is...holy shit, y'all, it's like Bring A Trailer for kids with way too much money. I'm smitten. And I will never be able to but anything more than next year's subscription. But if you need a 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports and you've got $5m kicking around, I'm your guy.

I'll buy that car, or one like it, when my ownership stake in FC Pingzau Saalfelden comes good. For now, though, the dream is deferred. The Mountainous Pine Blues sit squarely in the middle of the Austrian Regionalliga Salzburg table with a 5-1-7 record. Or sat, really, as the season's been cancelled due to COVID-19. In the midst of all that, CEO Mark Ciociola resigned. Or 'resigned'. We may not make the UEFA Champions League this year.

There is one thing to look forward to in the upcoming William & Mary basketball season, and it happens next week. Nathan Knight has an outside chance of being selected late in the second round of the NBA Draft next Wednesday. He had a great combine, shooting better from three-point range than any other big man. He's thought of as a bit stiff and less versatile than the James Wisemans of the world, but he's got a W&M degree, can shoot it, operate out of the pick and roll, pass, and defend the rim. So you're saying there's a chance? Eh, he'll make a ton of money in Europe.

And finally, I've made some dumb impulse purchases during the pandemic, but I'm pretty excited about this one. Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, known as Xolos, play in the top division of Mexican soccer. They're a relatively new side, founded in 2007, but they've had a decent amount of success, winning a league title in 2012. Club Tijuana's nickname references the ancient Aztec god of dogs, the Xolo. They ain't beautiful, but they're distinctive. As are the kits the club rolled out in honor of Dio de los Muertos:

That's gonna look good on me. As is 2021.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Supertankers of Guano, an Exploration of America

I teased this on Twitter yesterday, or at least the turn of phrase that ends the first graf. There's only one Gheorghie that writes like that, and when he's on a roll, best just to follow the advice Boone gave Otter. Kids, I give you our man in the OBX.

As we inch toward a Biden Administration, a handful of folks within the political gasbagerati make the point that one of the new president’s tasks must be to reach out and legitimize his election victory among all people. This idea is, not to put too fine a point on it, a supertanker of guano.

May or may not be guano aboard
There’s a lot of talk about healing and relief and recapturing the soul of America. But if the first three or six months of the next administration become a national couch session or campfire gathering, then Democrats are to politicking what the Washington Snydermen are to footballing. 

Joe Biden won the popular vote by more than five million, at last count. He carried Georgia, which last voted for a Democrat for president in 1992. He won in Arizona, which has voted for a Democrat only once since 1952. He flipped Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all of which went Republican in 2016.

By the same token, the current President lost the popular vote by 2.9 million in 2016, yet spent exactly zero time reaching out to the majority and to those states that did not vote for him. Aided by a compliant Senate and, his first two years, a House majority, he spent four years golfing and grifting and embodying many of the worst qualities of human beings in general and Americans in particular. He is a transactional figure who believes that empathy and cooperation are for suckers. He bears responsibility for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of deaths in a pandemic. He denuded and belittled government agencies. He antagonized allies and rolled over for belly rubs from authoritarians.

This is a big fucking fe
Biden delivered hopeful remarks, about how he’ll work just as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as for those who did, that he’s the president of all Americans and not just those who supported him. To be sure, he’s wired differently than his predecessor and is a product of a more collegial era in national politics, when legislators argued over policy by day and then retired to the Occidental for T-bones and bourbon. His lengthy legislative record includes many cringe-worthy measures and moments, but he appears to be a fundamentally decent fellow who leans toward public service and inclusion.

For those hoping that the election would be a repudiation of Donald Trump, consider that he received almost nine million more votes and a higher percentage of the electorate than he did in 2016. After witnessing him and his policies for four years, almost 72 million people thought him the better choice this time. Granted, many of those voters were motivated by fear and the demonization of Democrats as godless, communist, gun-snatching, tax-raising tree huggers. Still, hard to see the result as total rejection.

Plenty of people look at the stain of systemic racism, the cruelty of immigrant kids in cages, the violent putdown of peaceful protesters and respond with: “That’s not who we are.” Biden himself has said it. He and everyone who say so are wrong. It’s a national bedtime story we tell ourselves, girded by the lofty language of the founders. It’s all precisely who we are. We’re big and complicated and diffuse. We’re generous and welcoming and selfish and mistrustful. We’re tolerant and bigoted and informed and ignorant. We’re ambitious and complacent and hopeful and corrupt. To believe otherwise limits our chance for growth.

Ain't nobody scares the GA GOP more than this lady
Those who have gone down the Fox News and QAnon rabbit holes will never be convinced that Biden and Kamala Harris were legitimately elected, never mind interested in their lives. Biden and Harris and their allies shouldn’t try to convince them. Simply do the work. Explain what they want to do and why. Pass legislation. Send it to the Senate. When Mitch McConnell leaves bills on the shelf to wilt like arugula, call him on it. Publicly. Repeatedly. When his reasoning is, we won’t pass it, then hang it around his neck. If he can be pressured into holding votes, and he and his colleagues reject legislation, hang it around their necks. For four years, we’ve heard from conservatives that “elections have consequences,” which is a nuanced version of, “we won, so suck it.” Works both ways.

And speaking of the Senate, Georgia’s upcoming runoff elections for both seats could tilt the Senate blue (side note: Thanks, Cal Cunningham, for putting libido over service). Democrats’ message to Georgians every day should be: You voted for change and an opportunity for better lives for all Georgians, in health care and pandemic relief and living wages and participation in democracy; Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will give you those opportunities; David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler question the legitimacy of the election and will oppose such measures at every turn.

The election and accompanying optimism were nice moments, but they were only a start. Regardless of your political leanings, lotta work ahead. Giddyup.