Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time to give up on Toyota for good

You've probably all been waiting for me to write this. Well. You're in luck, because I'm finally doing it.

Many of things I write on this outlet are nationalistic, and for people like me who believe unconditionally that this country and its citizens deserve the best lives possible simply because we are the best, this Toyota meltdown is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Now don't get me wrong here, because you and I both know that Toyota makes an excellent product, and has done so for nearly 20 years. Its Lexus brand is one of the most foolproof purchases that anyone could make. This company has slowly and surely taken over America and a good portion of younger baby boomers/Gen X'ers.

These people are about 30-55, have decent incomes, and bought their first Toyota in the late 80s or early 90s. These same people also buy Hondas.

Their first Corolla or Accord or Camry was a great car. It lasted a long time, it had few problems, and when it came time to get a new one in '96 or '97, they renewed their pact with Toyota or Honda. Can you blame them? Not really.

Back when they were buying their first Toyota in 1993, let's look at the American options.

Please feel free to take a picture of yourself while you make disgusted faces as you imagine these models:

Chevy Corsica
Chevy Beretta
Chevy Cavalier
Chevy Lumina
Geo Prism
Geo Metro
Oldsmobile Achieva
Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
Ford Tempo
Ford Topaz
Ford Festiva
Ford Taurus
Dodge Spirit

And the list goes on and on, and friggin on. Just complete garbage. Utter worthlessness.

And that is how Toyota took over America. They simply made a better product than us for nearly 20 years (with the exception of trucks, SUVs, and musclecars). Owner recidivism among Toyota and Honda owners is the highest in the world, another reason why The Big Three has had difficulty getting repeat Toyota offenders to actually give their new products a fair shake. Despite enormous strides by GM (and Ford especially) in the last 3 years, Gen X'ers have refused to budge off their Japanese high horses and support American companies and American workers. In the '90s, I couldn't blame them. Now I can, because Toyota's rapid expansion in the last 10 years has now created some of the demons that the American companies have had to overcome.

If you were to poll a number of Americans on the following question, I believe their answer would be yes:

If a car made by an American company was equally dependable, priced, and desireable to that of a Japanese one, would you choose that vehicle over the foreign one?

If they were to say no, well, let's just excommunicate and deport them, because they are simply part of the problem. Back to the argument though...

Toyota has simply developed the same out of control "hugeness" that companies like GM developed. There are simply too many cars being made in too many places. The demand for vehicles like the Prius, Camry and Corolla as well as constant market pressure from Honda, has forced Toyota to bite off more than they can chew (obviously).

In fact, it is thought that they expanded operations and production so quickly that they simply couldn't do it alone, forcing the outsourcing of a number of parts and processes to inept Chinese companies. This is in addition to the fact that they rushed through testing and design of a number of things.

What it all comes down to is hubris.

It's the same thing The Big Three felt. It's the feeling of "we can do no wrong". It's the feeling of "people will always buy our product no matter what we do."

Well, in this changing economic landscape, people are making safer moves with their large purchases. The educated consumer won't buy things anymore just because you made it and slapped that weird looking firefly "T" on the hood.

If you need more reasons not to buy a Toyota, here are some more:

-- Two of their most popular vehicles the Prius and Corolla have put your life in danger

-- Countless other models could take off on you, including a nearly 6,000 lb V8 Toyota Tundra truck

-- We're not talking about one problem here. We're talking about gas pedals getting stuck on most of their cars, brakes failing on 2010 Priuses, and the steering on Corollas becoming a danger to its passengers.

That is three things on all different kinds of models. Quality control and design issues are widespread.

-- They refused to acknowledge the problem. They swept it under the rug. They lied to you. Finally, they begrudgingly recalled the cars with the gas pedal problems, but continued lying about the Prius's brake problems and refused to admit the Corolla's steering issues.

This isn't supposed to be a sleazy fly-by-night organization, but they're sure acting like it.

This final reason should make you sick to your stomach, and you should never consider buying one of these vehicles again as a result.

In Fremont, California, Toyota has been manufacturing vehicles at the Nummi plant since 1984. This state of the art factory has been one of the most efficient, productive, and problem-free facilities in the country. It is completely up-to-date, and can easily be revamped to produce nearly any model.

An intriguing aspect of this plant is that it a joint operation between GM and Toyota, bitter rivals, who somehow found a way to coexist for 25 years. Most recently the models produced at the Nummi plant were the Corolla, Tacoma, Matrix, and Pontiac Vibe.

In August of '09, GM was forced to commit infanticide, and killed its own child, Pontiac. Therefore, GM withdrew from the plant.

Shortly thereafter, Toyota announced that it didn't give a damn about American workers and the fact that 3 of their best-selling models were produced to exact specifications there.

In April of 2010, despite desperate pleas from all around the state, Toyota will put 4,700 Californians out of work and shut down the Nummi plant for good. The ramifications of this plant closure will in effect put closer to 6 or 7,000 people out of work, because of the myriad of supporting businesses that have done business with the plant. That's everyone from the guy working at the Quizno's counter down the street to the night security guards.

Toyota can't blame this on GM. They only made one car there, and it was based on the Matrix. I get that it is more expensive to build cars in California than in some godforsaken hellhole in Southeast Asia, but lower shipping costs must offset some of that. In addition, they could make the Prius in Fremont instead of Japan, market it truly as "California's Car", so that the liberals buying them could point at their hybrid-instect car being made in California and feel even more self-righteous than they did before.

Any of you who haven't been to California would be shocked at the amount of Priuses out here. THEY. ARE. EVERYWHERE. This state is truly the Prius's biggest market, and it would be a boon to both Toyota and California's effed up, 12% unemployment rated economy.

Of course The Big Three has shut down their share of plants recently, but it's only because they absolutely had to. They got too big, they had too much going on, and they lost their ability to control the quality of manufacturing.

Does that sound familiar?

It's time to give up on Toyota for good. It's simply the wrong automaker for America, and the wrong car for your garage. Buy American.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Challenges Facing Argentina's Cattle Industry

Hey folks, you'll need about 10 minutes to get through this one. I just turned this in for a final paper so I don't know what grade I've gotten, but it's pretty good. There's a lot of history in here, so get ready to learn. There was an introductory essay that goes along with it, but it's not as important, so I'm leaving it out. What? You expected some Tiger Woods stuff? Eh, maybe later.

Part one of this two part essay introduced cattle ranching and beef production in the South American country of Argentina. A very unique nation, Argentina’s large size, varied geography, economic potential and its melting pot culture make it one South America’s few leaders on the global stage. Despite its share of operational shortcomings and history of crises—both economic and political—Argentina has managed to remain an intriguing case study in a number of subjects. More specifically, Argentina’s beef industry and its ties to the culture (both current and past), make it a remarkable backbone and source of pride for this nation. It is truly a way of life, as Argentines consume nearly 160 pounds of beef per capita annually—the highest rate in the world.

Of course, like most Latin American and Caribbean countries, Argentina has its fair share of challenges. Political upheaval, monetary inflation, and difficulty in the commercial sector are nothing new. Through it all, the one true constant of Argentina has been cattle ranching and beef production, although today, even this steadfast industry is facing its own challenges. Global economic conditions, governmental tax impositions, and drought have led to decreased beef production and financial hardship to many ranchers and related industries. With so much adversity, the industry is struggling as a whole and there are a myriad of causes to be explored. In order to fully grasp the policies and struggles of today’s Argentina, one must understand the complex events of yesterday.

Early History

Prior to Spanish explorers arriving in 1516, Argentina was generally unsettled and lightly ruled. Although the Incan empire once claimed parts of Northern Argentina and indigenous herders and nomads roamed part of Patagonia, it was sparsely populated with no developed centers. The Spaniards established the first permanent settlement (Buenos Aires) in 1580. At that time, the Argentine territory was annexed as part of the Spanish colony of Peru (The “Viceroyalty”), which had been settled prior to Buenos Aires. Areas outside of Buenos Aires supported only small numbers of indigenous people and nomadic rough and tumble herders later called Gauchos. The main settlement of Buenos Aires was then populated by Spanish expatriates in addition to a number of African-descended slaves.

Beginning a long tradition of sparring with Great Britain, the Argentines managed to stave off two attacks by English forces at the turn of the 19th century. Britain, long at odds with France (which was allied with Spain at the time), attempted to overwhelm and usurp the fertile, promising lands of what is now Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay. In 1806, the British sent a small unit of 1,500 soldiers to capture Buenos Aires. Despite a small standing Colonial army, the Spanish viceroy managed to recruit a modest militia of Spanish and local Argentines. This ragtag band of settlers and indigenous peoples drove the British out for nearly a year.

The following year, in 1807, after seizing the would-be capital of Montevideo, Uruguay, a platoon of approximately 8,000 British soldiers marched south toward Buenos Aires. A confident and dogged militia met the British army with fierce resistance on the streets of Buenos Aires and repelled the well-equipped Brits. This was extremely similar to the American Revolution some thirty years earlier. The defense of the settlement led to a unified population, which only gained strength through the following years. The newfound cohesion of the populace, coupled with the fact that the Spanish Viceroyalty only allowed trade with Spain, led to the May Revolution in 1810 as well as the Argentine declaration of independence in 1816 (Nouzeilles & Montaldo). Power was assumed by the Junta Primera, ironically the first of several authoritarian or military regimes.

Following the Argentine declaration of independence from Spain, and other subsequent events that helped define the scope of this young nation, the first of several authoritarian regimes took hold—the regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas. De Rosas and his Federalists (Federales) took power in 1829, in a victory over the Unitarians (Unitarios). The Unitarians sought to centralize power over all the provinces in Buenos Aires, while the Federalists gave a broader scope of power to the provinces—preferring to run the country as a loose confederation (Nouzeilles & Montaldo). The schism between the two groups was both cultural and geographic. Unitarios were more learned and of the urban elite centered in Buenos Aires. Conversely, Federalists were from rural, undeveloped areas and a bit rough around the edges, so to speak. Naturally this led to a period of mistrust and fear. De Rosas ruled with an iron fist over the near quarter-century he was in power. This period was known as “The Terror”. De Rosas’s consolidation of power in conjunction with his fear of losing power to the Unitarios led him to imprison and torture political dissidents. Small roving militias named Mazorcas roamed the streets after dark in Buenos Aires, killing people with knives and spreading a deep fear amongst non-Federalists.

Following de Rosas’s overthrow and the drafting of a Constitution, the golden years of early Argentina began to develop and unfold. A successful defense of the homeland against an ill-advised onslaught by Paraguay helped unify the population that had so recently been living under a maniacal regime. Beginning in the 1870s European investment , in addition to massive immigration took place, creating a hopeful new land of new faces and potential (Lewis, D.) .
Late 19th Century to Present Day

Throughout the next 20 years, Argentina’s modernizing economy led by a strong export-led agricultural sector, transformed it from a divided young nation, into the tenth richest economy in the world. Hundreds of thousands of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and other assorted Europeans flocked to this new land of opportunity, just as they did to the United States. Ornate models of French and Italian architecture lined the plazas of Buenos Aires, and the city began its reign as the “Paris of the South”

After recovering from the globally-felt effects of The Great Depression and its first military coup in 1930 by conservatives, General Juan Peron was elected in 1946. The Populist policies of Peron and his wife Evita, led to the establishment of many workers unions, urban development and a number of government programs. Despite these positives, Peron’s isolationist policies and stranglehold over the media resulted in severe inflation of the national currency and directly led to the loss of significant amounts foreign investment capital (Lewis, P.).

Following a political tug of war that saw Peron swept back into office after 15 years in exile, the country was overtaken by a violent military coup in 1976—two years after Peron had passed away and left his unprepared third wife in power. This period from 1976 to 1983 was one of the bloodiest and oppressive campaigns the Americas have ever seen. Despite some economic progress made through public works programs, this heavy-handed right-wing military regime did more harm than good. Tens of thousands of dissidents and liberals were “disappeared”, while thousands more were imprisoned during the bleakest time of Argentina’s history. This period of time during the Proceso regime is known as “The Dirty War” (Anderson). In addition, short-sighted economic policies helped to create massive foreign debt, and standards of living decreased for most of the country (Lewis, P.).

After a short war with the British resulting from the unsuccessful takeover of The Falkland Islands (Las Islas Malvinas to the Argentines), the brutal Proceso dictatorship was deposed in 1983. The poor economic conditions left behind by this regime led to massive inflation and huge foreign debt (Lewis, D.).
Privatization of many industries and a new dollar-pegged peso helped President Carlos Menem settle the economy down, but due to the artificial nature of the currency’s value, the economy went south once again in 1999 as inflation ran amok. The unpopular and defiant Menem left office shortly thereafter (Lewis, P.; Anderson, L.).

Immediately following Menem’s presidency, the newly elected Fernando de la Rua was in an unenviable position. With massive deficits and the loss of investment capital, drastic measures were taken, such as the freezing of all savings and checking accounts across the country, basically preventing the middle class from accessing any of their savings, while the banks declared insolvency. This literally destroyed the savings and pensions of five million middle class Argentines. The economy went into a free-fall, lowering GDP growth to a -15%. This led to 25% unemployment.
Much of the crisis could be attributed to the artificial peso-dollar valuation put into place by Menem and his economic “czar” Cavallo in the 1990s. In comparison to other countries in Latin America, Argentina’s goods were too expensive because the country was basically dealing in American dollars. As a result, foreign markets shrank. In 2001, foreign debt service reached 50% of Argentina’s gross domestic product, and it owed nearly $30 billion dollars in debt payments in 2002. The country had no choice but to default on its many foreign loans, and a period of further economic crisis and civil unrest occurred—both in the government and in the streets.

Civil strife resulted in one of the most bizarre presidential sequences in the history of democracy. After de la Rua’s resignation, three different presidents were sworn in within 10 days, with a fourth, Nestor Kirchner being elected in 2003, at which time the economy had somewhat stabilized. After paying off debts to the International Monetary Fund and nationalizing some industries (such as utilities), Kirchner left office in 2007 in favor of his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Petras).

Agricultural upheaval and current economic policy

The two Kirchners' center-left governance policies helped stabilize positive growth within Argentina since 2003. However, high export taxes on agricultural products like soybeans, and for this paper’s ultimate purpose, beef, have led to massive protests by ranchers, farmers, and agricultural/livestock processors alike.
In 2006, with internal beef prices rising due to a number of factors, Kirchner banned the export of all beef for 180 days. This led to severe blockades and demonstrations by ranchers, essentially crippling the food supply of the country. Kirchner later backed off the outright ban, but instead instituted an export quota, lowering production nearly 40%. In 2008, Kirchner attempted to levy a 35% export tax on soybeans, one of Argentina’s chief agricultural exports. Predictably, farmers rioted and led a months-long strike. At stake for the government was 10% of all tax revenue, which it was receiving for the 35% soybean export tax. Despite encouragement from economic advisers, Kirchner rejected proposals to cut spending on infrastructure and to levy fewer export taxes on agricultural products. Debt payments, the global economic crisis, compounded by Kirchner’s populist social spending programs, have put both the government and the agricultural sector in no win situations.

Drought and the cattle crisis

As discussed part one of this two part essay, the fertile grasslands north and west of the capital region of Buenos Aires are called The Pampas. It is there that most agricultural production takes place. Typical climate for summers in the Pampas (December through March) are warm and humid. Average temperatures during the day range from 75 degrees Fahrenheit to about 90. During the winter (summer in the Northern Hemisphere), it cools off to generally between 45 to 60 degrees during the day. This climate and geography are similar to that of the American regions of California’s Central Valley, North Texas and Oklahoma as well as the veldts of South Africa and parts of Eurasian steppes.

This semi-arid, temperate region covers approximately 290,000 square miles, most of which lie within the North-Central part of Argentina. Its mild climate produces an annually evenly-distributed mean precipitation of approximately 24 to 47 inches of rainfall per year. Because there are no distinct rainy or dry seasons, edible grass and other flora thrive in this region— creating a perfect locale for livestock grazing and crop cultivation.

For nearly 200 years worth of ranching, this has been the climate—something totally ideal for the cultivation of large herds of cattle. Unfortunately, the country, and more specifically the Pampas region has been mired in a terrible drought; the worst in 50 years. To put this in perspective, in the time period from November 1, 2008 through January 24, 2009, most of the Pampas region received only four to seven inches of rain. During that time period, monthly rainfall totals should equal an average of five inches. With that said, from November 1 to January 24, the Pampas received somewhere between 30% and 50% of normal rainfall; clearly not enough.

The current drought is being described as being caused by La Nina, the dryer, cooler sister of the El Nino phenomenon that generally produces more rainfall than normal. According to the National Weather Service, “During La Niña, temperatures average two to six degrees (F) below normal between the date line and the west coast of South America. This large region of below-average temperatures coincides with the area of well below-average tropical rainfall. For both El Niño and La Niña, the tropical rainfall, wind, and air pressure patterns over the equatorial Pacific Ocean are most strongly linked to the underlying sea-surface temperatures, and vice versa.” At this point of mid-December, 2009, it is unknown as to whether the drought is over, as Argentina is just entering summer and the beginning of its rainiest time of year.

There is no overwhelming or specific evidence thus far that the current drought is caused by any kind of climate change. This region has gone through previous heavy droughts, specifically in 1962, 1985-86, and 1995. A 2005 study published in the Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics Journal reveals the same tale of the tape. According to the authors, the aforementioned past “…rainfall deficits (droughts) were concurrent with the strengthening of the sub-tropical anticyclone in the eastern Pacific, abnormally high pressure in Central and Northern Argentina, and the development of a cyclonic anomaly in the southwest Atlantic which coincides with colder ocean surface temperatures.”

The current crisis is simply the perfect storm of negative factors. As mentioned in part one of this essay, to raise a herd of cattle, one must have a large amount of land with adequate water supplies. The average cow, depending on gender, size, and stage of life, drinks between 4 and 20 gallons of water each day. The smaller the cow and the cooler the ambient temperature, the less water intake is required. Larger animals that have reached maturity, obviously consume the most water during warm weather. In addition, cows that are nursing or pregnant, consume about 25% more water per day than non-nursing females and about the same as full grown bulls. To put this into a real world example, if a rancher has a herd of 100 cows, and they drink an average of 10 gallons of water per day, the resulting total is 1,000 gallons—a staggering amount when faced with the competition of millions of other cows, corn, and soybean crops in the same region.

As many ranchers typically “repopulate” their herds— the process of stocking next year’s herd with the calves of the current year—they are facing particular difficulty right now. With rivers slowed down to a trickle and the parched land unable to provide the necessary grass feed, ranchers are facing tough choices. The Argentine gaucho has traditionally sustained a large amount of their business through the cycles that its own herd goes through in a free-range grazing situation.

Many cows that are capable of producing four to five calves over their lifespan may be birthing one—or none at all due to a lack of food and water. The rancher then has two options: forsake the traditional ranching method in favor of a densely packed, expensive feedlot stocked with corn or tomatoes, or send his valuable cows to slaughter before he extracts maximum value out of them. Choice number one results in zero profits or a net loss, and choice number two results in the same outcome due to the fact that the rancher must then purchase more cows at auction to keep his herd going.

It is truly an unenviable position for the country of Argentina and its proud, yet struggling agricultural sector. With global financial markets beginning to stabilize and the beginning of the rainy season, perhaps the worst is over. However, current internal economic and political policies could choke the life out of the Argentine beef industry just by attempting to keep itself afloat amid deficit spending and a weak currency. As many ranchers have been forced to switch from cattle herds to corn, soybeans, and other cereals, this beef-loving country could be on the verge of importing beef from Uruguay for the first time ever. As one Argentine rancher put it, “That would be a day I never thought I’d ever see.” (BBC News).


--Nouzeilles & Montaldo,The Argentina Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.
--Lewis,Daniel K.. The History of Argentina. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001.
--Anderson, Leslie. "Of Wild and Cultivated Politics: Conflict and Democracy in Argentina International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 16. 1 (2002), 99-132, (accessed December 15, 2009).
--Johns, Michael. "Industrial Capital and Economic Development in Turn of the Century Argentina Economic Geography 68. 2 (1992), 188-204, (accessed December 13, 2009).
--Lewis, Paul. The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1990.
--Petras, James. "18 Months of Popular StruggleEconomic and Political Weekly 38. 23 (2003), 2255-2260, (accessed December 14, 2009).
--Geethanjali, Nataraj. "Argentina's Crisis: Causes & ConsequencesEconomic and Political Weekly 38. 17 (2003), 1641-1644, (accessed December 14, 2009).
--Moffett, Matt. " - Argentina Faces Strike by Farmers." Feb. 20, 2009. (accessed 12/1/2009).
--Oxford Analytical, Forbes Online. "Policy Conflicts Loom Large for Argentina." 4/28/2008. (accessed 12/14/2009).
--Greenstein, Dan. "Argentina Drought Likely to Spike Soybean Prices." 2/18/2009. (accessed 12/15/2009).
--NWS-NOAA, "Climate Prediction Center." 2005. (accessed 12/15/2009).
--Barrucand, M.G.. "Dry conditions over Argentina and the related monthly circulation patternsMeteorogy and Atmospheric Physics (2005), 1-16, (accessed December 14, 2009).
--Gadberry, Ph.D, Shane. "Water For Beef CattleUniveristy of Arkansas Division of Agriculture (2006), 1-4, (accessed December 15, 2009).
--BBC News, "Drought Sucks Life From Argentina's Farms." Feb. 23, 2009. (accessed 12/14/2009).
--Agriculture and Livestock, "State of Knowledge Report on Andean Ecosystems-- The Southern Andes and Sierras Pampeanas Mountain Research & Development 4. 2 (1984), 151-162, (accessed December 17, 2009).

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Epic Rant

I haven't done one of these in awhile, but I've been writing them down as they've come to me... this one is a few weeks in the making.

-- Why the hell is downtown Miami always under construction? No matter what year it is, or what show or movie you're watching, there are like 4 goddamn cranes doing things in the skyline. Seriously.
Burn Notice, Scarface, Dexter, CSI Miami, Bad Boys 1&2... even in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the friggin video game. Every single goddamn one of them has a shot of the skyline with multiple cranes sticking up. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. This has been going on for 30 years!

-- I'm so sick to death of phone numbers on TV. The whole "555" prefix is so obnoxious. I wish whoever decided this long ago would've reserved a couple more. Like why can't we have 555, 991, and 880 as movie and TV show phone number prefixes? They dropped the ball on that one.

-- How so many in this country could be without jobs, while Tim McCarver keeps his is UNBELIEVABLE.

-- On that note, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver have called every World Series since 1996! That's 12 years! Can you believe we've had to put up with this drivel this long?

Here's a brief list of Tim McCarver quotes:

"If you leadoff and you play every day, you're guaranteed to bat with the bases empty at least 162 times."

"Derek Lowe is the dominant groundball pitcher in baseball. How dominating? The most."

"On most teams the set up man has become more valuable, on others not so valuable."

This is torture! FOX! PLEASE!

-- Why does all new rap music sound like the beats are slowed down techno songs?

-- Why does so much country music sound like late '80s and early '90s pop music?

-- If a person has no money in their bank account, how do you expect them to pay a $35 overdraft fee?

-- I've determined that all bands named after a city or state are awesome (with the exception of Berlin): Alabama, Kansas, Chicago, Boston, America

-- Of course, bands named after continents are suspect at best: Asia, Europe

-- I can't believe that we can pay bills from our phone but we still have to find and put coins in parking meters. Nightmare.

-- Why don't airlines start selling "All you can drink" fares with a limit to 2 per hour? Charge an extra $60 bucks a ticket and give them double the frequent flier miles.

-- Yes, I realize that on a 5 and a half hour flight from Atlanta to San Francisco, someone could drink almost 12 drinks. Who are you kidding? The people who drink that much have already gotten onto the plane 3 or 4 drinks in to begin with. It's a necessity.

-- Anyone think that the new Bank of America ATM's are worse than making transactions with a human being? It's supposed to be convenient to not use envelopes to make deposits. Oh yeah? Today, it took me 5 minutes to deposit one check. Why?

It rejected it the first time, then after it accepted it, it couldn't read the amount it was for, then after typing in the amount that it supposedly should be able to read, it asked me if it was correct.


Then it processed the transaction for 10 seconds, asked me if I was done making deposits, then PROCESSED THE TRANSACTION AGAIN for another 10 seconds. Finally, it took another 30 seconds to get my card back.

Real effing convenient B of A.

-- Why do these friggin prescription drug commercials need to state the obvious?

"Tell your doctor if you're pregnant, nursing, have kidney or liver problems, have had a heart attack, diabetes, or lung cancer."


This is procedure. They won't prescribe you anything unless they know it's not going to kill you. The medical malpractice suits are too scary to risk anything.

So why on earth does the commercial need to tell us that? For that matter, why are there even drug commercials on TV?

-- I'm not sure when Halloween turned into chicks dressing like call girls, but I like it.

-- I see multiple Smart Cars every day. I give them the Joaquin Phoenix/Gladiator wavering thumbs down every time I see them. Any man (or woman for that matter) who sacrifices their dignity and safety to be able to park in small parking spots deserves to be mocked in public.

You'd rather have a 3 cylinder, 70 horsepower tuna can that gets OK gas mileage than a Mini Cooper or even a goddamn Prius? You suck at life and I need to make sure you know it.

-- I am outing Tim McGraw right now as an Obama supporter. I read it in Men's Journal at the gymnasium. You've failed me Tim.

-- NBC is the most incompetent network in history. It's only decent shows are Heroes, Sunday Night Football, and Law & Order SVU. They stupidly ave Conan O'Brien Leno's spot and then moved Leno to 10pm. Are they retarded? They single handedly killed ratings on both those shows.

Then they overspent on the production of Trauma, which had promise, but was cancelled due to its unwatchable characters. Seriously. I hated every single one of those people except for Rabbit. If you don't like the characters in a show, you're not going to watch it.

Also, they were too stupid to restart Las Vegas after the writer's strike. That show could have had a 10-12 year run. It never got old. Even after James Caan left and Tom Selleck took over.


-- So I saw my friend's GQ magazine with the extremely hot Olivia Wilde on the cover sitting on the coffee table. Not being as familiar with GQ as I am with ESPN or Maxim, I thought there would be a sweet spread of pictures. There were a couple, along with a good article, but what really got me is...

This is supposed to be a straight guy's magazine, right? Well why then, does this magazine have 175 pages solely containing pictures of gay men in various states of undress? Seriously. Being a sharp dresser is one thing, but this "magazine" is not for regular guys. Shocking, really.

-- Enough Brett Favre and Alex Rodriguez already!

-- I was Al Davis last Halloween. Great, I know. But, you could seriously be a member of the Raiders organization every year for Halloween and it would not get old. Tom Cable? JaMarcus Russell? Anyone in the Black Hole? What a freak show!

-- PS: After 2 games, Michael Crabtree has 11 receptions for 137 yards. Darrius Heyward-Bey? 5 catches for 74 yards... IN EIGHT GAMES! HAHA! No wonder Crabtree held out for more money. He's friggin worth it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Defense of Rush Limbaugh's Rams bid

One of the most successful organizations in the world, the National Football League, disappoints me in many ways these days.

They refuse to lift their asinine blackout television rules during a hideous recession, they make rules specifically for specific star quarterbacks that affect the way the game should be played and the direct outcome of some contests, they stifle the brilliantly funny Chad Ochocinco, and they won't allow Rush Limbaugh to become a minority owner of arguably its weakest and worst team, the St. Louis Rams.

There are three kinds of people in this country today: those who love/tend to agree with Rush, those who hate/cannot stand Rush, and those who are too out of touch/too stupid to even know who he is.

If those are my options, then fine, I love/tend to agree with Rush.

I really don't, but I just pigeonholed America with three contrasting options, and I'm not going to go back and rephrase it.

(By the way, I found the nicest picture of Rush on the internet. Doesn't look like a bad guy, right?)

I don't listen to him too often, because it's a weird time slot... I mean he's on at like 10am on the West Coast, and most of us are going to school or work and can't really listen to him bellow about the radical left and Barack Obama's America for two hours a morning. When I do listen to him, I can't say that I disagree with too much he says. Sorry, I'm a conservative, nothing I can do about that.

I TOTALLY understand why people hate him, and so does he. He plays on it. Rush is brash and outlandish, forceful and edgy. He is an excellent speaker who knows exactly what he wants to get across, and does it in a way that delights many of his hardcore listeners and disgusts the rest.

It's just one of those things.

What bothers me the most about this situation, is that there is a lot of hypocrisy and groupthinking going on by a group of owners and a players union that forced out a viable and qualified minority owner candidate, simply because of his views.

I'm sorry, last time I checked, this was America.

Not only did these bandwagoning owners band together out of fear and spinelessness, but the instantaneous campaign that sprung forth after the Checketts-Limbaugh news broke was mostly fabrications.

Sure, Limbaugh said this in 2003 (and we've all heard it):

"Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go," Limbaugh said. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

Yes, it is divisive. No, it is not politically correct. But it's an opinion, and I don't believe it to be a racist one. It involves race, but that doesn't make it racist, and it doesn't make Rush a racist.

Back to this campaign...

You hear guys like the Colts' owner Jim Irsay, say, "Oh well, this guy is too divisive, and we don't like the comments he makes."

What comments Jim? Are we back on the McNabb thing AGAIN?

Maybe they were the 10 racist Rush Limbaugh quotes that are copied and pasted all over the internet.

Many of these quotes are either badly or indirectly sourced, some over 30 years old, and others just sourced to news articles by reputable sources that contain the quotes-- themselves not sourcing them to an audio clip.

An example:

"The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies."

The source given for this quote is to an article on FAIR's website (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting)-- itself not sourcing this quote to anything at all., a fairly solid source for internet rumors and commonly held myths and beliefs, traces this quote...

" far back as 1992, so the only documentation (they've) been able to locate for it is indirect. All sources (they've) found that reference it cite the January 1993 issue of 'Flush Rush Quarterly' as their source.

A 1992 issue of Flush Rush Quarterly is the source? WTF is that anyway?

So look, some of this stuff is true, and some is not. Apparently Rush did say:

"Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it."

That statement alone is definitely on the racist side. But it was said within a much, much broader statement on his radio show in which he took a call about the NFL and its celebrations. Also from within that response is the following quote:

"Ladanian Tomlinson to me is the classiest player in the NFL. He doesn't do a dance, he doesn't spike the ball when he scores. He and Marvin Harrison are the two most classy individuals playing in the NFL today."


Look, he was just making a point. Although most of NFL's celebrations are funny and enjoyable, a lot of it is excessive, especially the sack dances. But if you didn't know anything about football and didn't know anything about Bloods or Crips, would you draw similarities between these behaviors?

If you can't see the embedded videos, click here.

NFL celebrations


The point in all of this is yes, Rush can be a jerk. A lot of people are offended by what he says. But I believe that this world is far too PC for its own good. In addition, most of the people who don't like Rush haven't even listened to more than 5 minutes of his show in their lives. They hear about the controversies, they know his political stances, they read shady internet quotes presented as fact, and decide that he's a racist and has no right to spend his own money to purchase part of a business.

It's the same thing I get when I tell people I watch the O'Reilly factor. Oh, he's a jerk, he's a liar, he sucks, he's a racist.... bla, bla, bla. Fox News, radical right, bla, bla, bla.

Yeah, and when was the last time you tuned in to the O'Reilly factor?

On the other hand, I understand Roger Goodell's efforts to thwart any kind of bad press. With, oh, I don't know, 400+ NFL players in the last 10 years being arrested, the league has a big problem. A few of note come to mind: Mike Vick and his dogfighting, Donte Stallworth ran a guy over and killed him, Pacman Jones, Shawne Merriman, Rae Carruth, Travis Henry, Leonard Little, the Cincy Bengals of a few years ago, Pacman Jones...

While Goodell has done a decent job of really laying down the law with players acting up, how bad could it have been to have Rush as a part owner of the Rams? He wouldn't be an Al Davis, Jerry Jones, or Dan Snyder. He's not going to be in the locker room after every game and trading for high priced receivers or drafting JaMarcus Russell. The guy wanted to own a slice of a struggling team in his home state.

And how about this?

Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, Jennifer Lopez & Marc Anthony, Venus & Serena Williams, Jimmy Buffett, Emilio & Gloria Estefan are all minority partners with the Miami Dolphins.


Okay, Dan, but none of those people make comments like Rush.

Yeah, but what do they say at their concerts? Anything political there?

And another example... Dan Rooney, owner of the Steelers, openly campaigned for Obama during his presidential run. In fact, he was such a big supporter, that Obama named Rooney the ambassador to Ireland (talk about a dream gig by the way.)

This isn't supposed to be about Obama, but it's just hypocritical of the NFL to say, yes, drunken wife beaters are allowed in our league, and outspoken Democrats are allowed to own teams, but Rush isn't.

I wonder what would happen if he tried to buy an NBA team?

"Yeah, Rush, we allow sleazy Russian billionaires and Jay-Z to own the New Jersey Nets, but you... you're too controversial."

It's all just a little two-faced, and I don't care for it. Although I've defended Michael Vick before, I just want this question answered:

How is Vick allowed to play and Rush isn't allowed to own a team?

I'm sorry. I thought this was America.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

My American Car Wishlist

I don't even know why I'm writing this, but I am. It serves no real purpose, but I don't feel like writing about O'Bamie getting the Nobel Peace prize (cough--JOKE--cough). Anyway....

As many of you do, I dream of the things I'd do if I somehow came into more money than God... like winning the lottery, although inevitably, none of us really even play the lottery it seems.

Some dream of exotic foreign vacations or houses, or insane shopping sprees. Truthfully, all I think about is cars. Yes if I had millions, I'd buy houses and go on vacation too, but even before I'd move, I'd buy a car-- or 10. "Great priorities," my parents would say. It's all hypothetical though. Give me a break.

So, here are the parameters I've set for myself. Buy the 10 sickest, American, in-production cars there are-- fully loaded of course. Classic cars and practical cars are lists for another time. So here we go (in no particular order). I encourage you to listen to Bob Seger and other Michigan-based tunes while reading this.

1.) Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

Truthfully, this is currently the vehicle I'd buy right now if I could. There's nothing better than driving in the open air... especially when it's in a badass, American icon like the Wrangler. This new four door incarnation was introduced in 2005, and catches my eye on the road every time. They are a little underpowered, but obviously in this hypothethical situation, I'd immediately get rid of that 202 hp V6 and put a 6.1L Mopar Hemi in. America!

MSRP: $32k

2.) Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab

My favorite trucks on the road have improved so much since my '98 2500 that it's unbelievable-- and that was an unbelievable rig. They are powerful, capable, and drop dead gorgeous. For my purposes, I would give this a 6 inch lift and some 35" BFG Goodrich's... pretty standard. Of course, I'd opt for the 6.2L V8. Yeah, that's the one that churns out 403 horses.

MSRP: $44k

3.) Lincoln Navigator L

Why the Navigator over the Escalade you wonder? Well, I like the looks of the Navigator better actually, which runs contrary to my usually GM-centric preferences. The front is almost presidential looking. Plus, I think the interiors of these behemoth are more inviting. The navigation that pops out of the dash is sick. It doesn't have as much power as the Caddy, but, this is a hypothetical remember? It would just serve as the luxo-cruiser that this 10 car collection needs. Tell me this isn't a beautiful vehicle...

MSRP: $62k

4.) Dodge Challenger SRT8

This remarkably sexy throwback muscle car had me drooling the first time I set eyes on her in a magazine. Strong lines, retro styling, and potent powerplants make the Challenger an extremely tough car to overlook. I mean just look at it!

This is a plain and simple classic muscle car. It is more aggressive than the new Camaros and Mustangs, and nothing like it has ever come out of Japan or Germany. Plus the SRT8 comes with the aforementioned 6.1L Hemi, good for 425 hp right off the factory floor. Joe Dirt would be proud.

MSRP $45k

5.) Corvette ZR1 3ZR

I can't think of anything more American than a Corvette. These beasts have been roaming the earth for over 50 years, and have evolved into near production supercars. Although not quite Ferraris, they are pretty damned close. This particular model, the ZR1, contains Chevy's big block 6.2L V8, used in the Escalade and Silverado. However, as this is of course, America, the ZR1's is supercharged, resulting in a rubber liquefying 638 ponies. These stats are ridiculous:

-- 0-60 in 3.4 seconds
-- 0-100 in 7.0 seconds
-- quarter mile in 11.3 seconds
-- 205 mph top speed

MSRP: $120k

6.) Dodge Ram 3500 Resistol Mega Cab

As much as I love Silverados, the Dodge Ram is the truck that powers America. The undisputable choice of ranchers, farmers, and anyone who needs to haul things, the Dodge Ram with its bulletproof Cummins Diesel engine can tow more, more reliably than any other 3/4 ton or 1 ton models (ie. F-350, Chevy 3500). Just ask my buddy Nate, who claims to have towed over 22,000 pounds in his 2004 Ram. Granted, cattle ranchers are known to embellish a bit, but it is rated at 19,000 pounds-- good enough to tow 12 Smart Cars. This is why Toyota Tundras are laughed at by real truckers. Also, any truck that comes out with a Resistol model is badass. Stop into your local Boot Barn if you don't know what that is.

MSRP: $50k

7.) Cadillac Escalade EXT

That's right, you didn't think I liked these. Well I do. There's something I find cool about a half truck, half SUV that looks like an Escalade. It's just the jack of all trades. Naturally, it will never see a trip to Home Depot or a dirt road, but still. The Cadillac Escalade is arguably the biggest status symbol in our country today. Everyone from soccer moms, to rappers, athletes, and CEO's take pride in their Escalades, and despite how common they seem to be, they still turn heads, especially this upgraded Chevy Avalanche version. Come on, 403 horses... you know you want one!

MSRP: $60k

8.) 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP

Okay, don't laugh at this one. I know it seems a bit out of place. But this car is for real. As we all know, the world sucks so bad in general that GM had to kill one of its children-- Pontiac. Seriously, I consider the removal of this proud brand from the road as a form of auto-murder. Hopefully, the world will stop sucking so bad in the future that Pontiac can be resurrected, even if it's only for the Trans Am, GTO, and this car, the G8.

This G8 is an aggressive, sharp muscle sedan, that would probably be overlooked if you saw one. I'd love nothing more than to challenge some punk in an Acura listening to electronical music at a red light, then torch him in this beast.

Its Corvette-shared V8 is good for 415 hp, and its cabin roomy enough to tool around town other human beings in tow. It's also been noted for its surprisingly crisp handling. 0-60 times have been clocked at 5.4 seconds.

RIP Pontiac. I'll miss you.

MSRP: $40k (but you can get one now for $35k)

9.) Dodge Viper SRT-10 Convertible

The most outlandish of all American vehicles has been, and will always be the Dodge Viper. It's severe snake-like styling and absurd V-10 power has been turning heads since the early 1990s. Far from an everyday driver, these rubber-burning reptiles are loud, ridiculously fast, and ultra-rare. I'd opt for the convertible version because so far, the only one I have in this collection is the Wrangler. Seriously, how sleazy would this be? I'd crank nothing but Eddie Money, Foreigner and Van Halen, and just cruise around trying to pick up sleazy women until this 600 horsepower monster blew out my eardrums. Love it.

MSRP: $104k

And last, but not least:

10) Cadillac CTS-V

True Statement: The CTS-V is the fastest production sedan in the world.

This is probably the best car in America, in all aspects. The CTS was Motor Trend's car of the year in 2008, and nearly everything about it is top notch. The CTS-V model is an amazing performance version of this already sporty Lexus/BMW killer.

The CTS-V's Corvette-borrowed 6.2L V8 is supercharged, and makes 556 horsepower. In a car that weighs only 4,200 lbs., this translates roughly into: THE CADDY THAT ZIGS.

How about this from Motor Trend:

"AMG's E63 Benz nails 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. The new CTS-V weighs about the same and has at least 43 more horses and 85 pound-feet more torque. You draw your own conclusions."

This car is why the tide is turning.

MSRP: $60k

If you're wondering, those 10 cars add up to $617,000. Not too bad, considering this dream of mine involves hundreds of millions. Love it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Inglourious Basterds: I want my money back

Warning: Spoilers

I think my title pretty much sums up my feelings about this movie. I literally couldn't be more disappointed in Quentin Tarantino's new film. Seriously.

Were you/are you one of the red-blooded males who saw the trailer on TV where Brad Pitt was goin' on 'bout killin' Naatzis in a Tennessee drawl and got fired up? Well I certainly was.

You know, it's one of those movie marketing tricks. Make the whole trailer about Brad Pitt killing Germans and pretend that's what you'll see for two and a half hours. Well, you had better see a matinee show if you plan on getting your money's worth.

I am well aware that half of you reading this think I'm crazy, dense, and "that I just don't understand the "genius" of Tarantino."

Oh I understand it alright.

The guy is by far the most self-indulgent narcissist in the history of cinema. And luckily for him, he's established a "mainstream cult" following that collectively believes that he walks on water and can do no wrong.

The guy is a good director and writes a good script, there's no doubt about that. The storylines were definitely intriguing. Also, the casting in Inglorious Basterds was incredible. Each character actor was impeccably chosen and were not only believable, but weren't distracting. Basically, we have no idea who these people are other than Pitt (and you'll recognize Diane Kruger). This is especially true for the actor playing Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), an SS Colonel disturbingly, yet aptly nicknamed "Jewhunter."

Landa is probably one of the most intriguingly developed and and superbly acted roles I've ever seen, and at times, this sadistic bastard (pun intended) steals the show. He makes some very long, drawn out scenes tolerable because he is so damned authentic.

Other than the casting, the superb cinematography (camera work, contrast, composition), and a handful of brilliantly acted non-action scenes, this movie had few bright spots to speak of. It just went on and on, and very little happened or was accomplished.

As Peter Griffin once said about The Godfather, "It insists upon itself."

(That's right, I quoted Peter Griffin.)

There is so little action between the 20 minute and 1 hour and 20 minute marks that I seriously considered leaving the theater. I'm not one to hate a good dialog or relevant scene, but we're talking scene after painful scene of slow character and plot building, endless subtitle reading, and single scenes of people sitting around a table for almost 30 full minutes with zero cutaways.

I appreciated the subtitles at first, as Germans and Frenchmen aren't going to be speaking English to one another during WWII. But trust me, it gets old REAL quick. Again, it's as if Tarantino was so pleased with himself for finding actors who could switch seamlessly between three and four languages easily, that he had them do it for a half hour at a time.

And who's going to tell him otherwise? He's the delicate prima donna who's had his ass kissed so much for the last 20 years that if anyone suggested that half the movie was a snoozefest, he'd probably pull some kind of less masculine Christian Bale fit on the set, fire his editors and/or key grips, and go hide in his trailer with a cappuccino for 6 hours.

More disappointments:

Brad Pitt was on screen for about one third of the movie. He was by far the most entertaining character in the entire film. Obviously Waltz's Landa character was the most compelling, but that doesn't mean he was keeping me awake.

While Tarantino's bizarre, seemingly irrelevant short stories took their turns on screen, one is left thinking, "What the hell do these people have to do with each other?"

The answer simply is, nothing. The only link between the Inglourious Basterds (Pitt's unit of Jewish-American army assasins), and Shosanna Dreyfus (who we meet in the movie's first scene) is Colonel Landa.

Even at the end of the movie for the big bloody finale, the stories end up coinciding in the same place with the same goals, but they do not cross paths or join together in any manner. This is something that Tarantino almost surely delights in while his droves of lemmings notice its obviousness and fancy themselves film aficionados.

It is this cinematographic hubris by Tarantino that drives me crazy. He thinks he can just juxtapose two totally different plots and stories on top of one another, vaguely tying them together in one absurd final bloodbath. All the while he's crossing his fingers and hoping no one notices the ugly staples and seams holding the movie's parts together underneath all the oozing bodies on the ground.

Another thing that drives me nuts about this Tarantino is that he'll just randomly put arrows with names superimposed on a freeze frame that befits John Madden or Jeff Van Gundy during a sports telecast. There were also a couple cutaways to a random narrator (who sounded like Samuel L. Jackson), and out of place German 80s pop music during key parts of the movie. Guy drives me nuts. No one else can get away with a fictitious "period piece" like this. No one.

As I mentioned before, there is painfully little action in this film, (maybe about 20 minutes out of the (at times) agonizing 2 hours and 33 minutes. And as is Tarantino's M.O., the violence is so grotesque and unfathomable that it borders on the absolute absurd-- in effect making the bashing of a man's skull with a Louisville Slugger and the constant scalping of Nazis seem hilarious.

Even I felt weird about laughing at a dead guy getting his brain exposed by an antler-hilted buck knife as Brad Pitt drawled on about the Smoky Mountains. It was just awesomely bad.

Look, if you're in the Tarantino cult, I know you've already disregarded this. You're all as in love with him as he is with himself. If you're not in his cult and think this is an action movie, you're mistaken. Catch it on Netflix in 5 months.


Let the Quentin Tarantino defense begin.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

The Brilliance of Bill Simmons

I'm sorry, this is a quick cop out of a blog article, but if you are a guy who even remotely likes sports and Las Vegas, you MUST read this two part article on ESPN. Trust me. You will agree with everything and laugh out loud. Epic. Bill Simmons meets up with 10 of his friends for a fantasy football draft and all sorts of other debauchery.

Brilliance in action.

ESPN -- Bill Simmons -- "You're Never Too Old For Vegas" Part 1

Part 2

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Friday, August 21, 2009

MSNBC isn't dishonest? Check this out!

If you are reading this on an email newsfeed or Facebook, click here to see the videos.

This is the first video clip, which was aired on the very pro-Obama MSNBC. Notice the details of the video. Also, listen to the insane blather on this program! These people are unbelievable... but you decide for yourself.

And here is a local ABC affiliate's video. Notice that the gun-toting (great) American in the video is not a "white racist".

I report. You decide. Haha. Where's Jon Stewart on this one??

Again, if you cannot see the videos, click here.

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