The Ostroy Report

The Ostroy Report is a fresh, aggressive voice for Democrats and a watchdog of the GOP/Tea Party. We support President Obama and the Democratic agenda and seek to preserve the Senate majority while taking back the House. But we're also not afraid to criticize the left when necessary.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What? "Political Self-Preservation?" Shocking!


Everyone knows that politicians are altruistically-motivated, selfless do-gooders whose unadulterated patriotism compels them to volunteer to serve country and countryman. So it came as an absolutely stunning shock Tuesday when Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector announced he was switching his party affiliation to the Democrats in a move designed to win re-election. I'm still reeling from the rarity of such a self-serving act by a politician.

Republicans were quick to pounce, labeling Spector's tact nothing more than "political self-preservation," as Texas Sen. John Cornyn said.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele, another shining example of that unbridled selflessness that permeates the Republican Party, said Spector "left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record." Now when has a politician ever done that, huh?

And in an admirable call for balance and bi-partisanship, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell warned: "The danger of that for the country is that there won’t automatically be an ability to restrain the excess that is typically associated with big majorities and single-party rule." Translation: the party of "no" just became the party of "zero power."

These jilted Republicans also attempted to minimize the significance of Spector's defection--which would give Democrats a filibuster-proof majority once Minnesota's Al Franken gets confirmed after his legal battles with incumbent Norm Coleman end this Summer--by calling it an isolated regional case:

"This is not a national story," McConnell said. "This is a Pennsylvania story about his inability to be renominated by the Republican Party or be elected as an independent. He made a totally political decision."

Ever the reliable delusionists (or liars...take your pick), I guess they're forgetting that Republican incumbents across the country got their collective asses kicked last November. Or that Bush and Cheney's abysmal approval ratings were lower than the age of the average MTV viewer. Or that the approval ratings of Republicans in Congress right now is half of that of the Democrats. Or that Maine's moderate Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins could quite possibly be the next to defect. Yeah, Spector's exodus is just a lil ole Pennsylvania problem, Mitchy.

The real kicker here about Spector? He's actually the kind of politician we all can and should respect. He votes his conscious and his principles, not his party. Yet the Republican leadership hates him because his voting record with the GOP is 65% not 100%. Forget that he's voted for the Iraq war, supported Bush's Supreme Court nominees and tax cuts, supports school vouchers, supports gun ownership and opposes gay marriage. That's not conservative enough. That he's pro-choice and voted for Obama's stimulus package makes him a traitor to the party in their myopic, lockstep-marching eyes.

Spector's no dummy, and he knows the highly effective and stauchly conservative Club for Growth will lavish support and money on a much more radically right-wing 2010 GOP primary opponent. So he's outsmarted and outmaneuvered them. And they will lose again.

To be sure, the GOP is a dying party. To the benefit of Democrats, it's been hijacked by the far-right-wing fringe hellbent on ramming its conservative social dogma down the throats of Americans while alienating and losing its moderate faction. Just as Ronald Reagan famously said in 1962 when he switched parties, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me," Spector too had felt abandoned by the party, saying the GOP had "moved far to the right" and his political philosophy became "more in line with Democrats." Let's hope there's a lot more like Spector who start feeling the love across the aisle...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Obama's Done for America's Confidence


What is a recession? What constitutes a bear stock market? In both cases, it's nothing more than perception. It's the collective belief by consumers and businesses alike that things are bad and getting worse. And it's mostly a self-fulfilling prophecy. Americans stop spending, corporate profits turn to mounting losses, and massive layoffs follow. And it's a vicious cycle. We therefore create the very things we fear most. When that happens, nothing can turn it around except a very different perception. The shifting sentiment that things are looking better.

Which brings us to a new ABC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday indicating that 50% of Americans now believe the country is headed in the right direction, versus just 8% in October, before the presidential election and three months before Barack Obama took office. Additionally, the Consumer Confidence Index released Tuesday showed a significant increase to 39.2% in March vs. 26.9% in February. Throw in Obama's approval rating, which hovers around 65%, and it's a pretty safe bet that Americans are starting to feel much better about the nation's leadership and the overall direction of the economy and the country.

When consumers start feeling better about things, they spend. It starts with little things like clothes, toys, books, etc. They take extra trips to the mall. Then they slowly return to big-ticket items. They buy electronics, cars, houses, take vacations. And when they spend, it fattens corporate earnings. And that leads to job growth, reinvestment and spending on capital improvements. Pretty soon, recession turns to prosperity. Of course, I'm over simplifying, and an economic recovery can take a long while to achieve any appreciable measure of growth. But all signs point to a bottoming, and that would mean the crawl back upward begins. Whether we experience a V, U or L-shaped recovery is anyone's guess. But it would appear that a recovery, however slow, is at least underway.

Obama's critics can bark as loudly as they wish and continue playing the partisan rhetoric game, but the simple truth is that his first 100 days have achieved major progress in turning around the economy, restoring consumer confidence, and curbing the hemorrhaging in both the banking and housing crises. Not bad for 100 days..

Monday, April 20, 2009

Obama and Chavez: What's Wrong with this Picture?


Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Let me repeat that one more time for our Chicken Little Republican friends. There is nothing wrong with this picture. And more importanly, the sky is not falling.

It's the handshake heard 'round the world. The infamous image of a smiling President Barack Obama greeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. The handshake that sent conservatives into hissyfit high-gear.

Republican Sen. John Ensign (NV) said Sunday that it was "irresponsible" for Obama to be seen "laughing and joking" with the Venezuelan president. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said "This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter. Carter tried weakness and the world got tougher and tougher because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators, when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead."

In dismissing this irresponsible rhetoric Obama pointed to his victory in November which signaled that Americans wanted change; change from eight years of the Bush administration's reckless foreign policy. He said voters elected him to enjoin both friends and enemies alike into the peace process.

In discounting the "weakness" claims, Obama said "The American people didn't buy it. And there's a good reason the American people didn't buy it, because it doesn't make sense....It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interest of the United States."

You see, Republicans don't understand diplomacy. Engagement. Negotiation. The political mastery behind Teddy Roosevelt's "Speak softly but carry a big stick" brilliance. To the contrary, they subscribe to the Speak like an obnoxious bully, carry a big stick, and beat everyone over the head with it philosophy. They simply don't get the strategy behind thinking before you speak, measuring your moves, not tipping your hat. They don't know what it means to talk smart rather than talk tough. That's because they're used to a petulant, testosterone-deprived, arrogant, simpleton cowboy-wannabe who lived in a black and white world, pissed off friends and enemies alike, and alientated us from the entire world.

Sure, why don't we just insult everyone. Lump them all into this Axis or that Axis. Cut off talks. Threaten. Refuse to meet. Re-adopt the wildly successful You're either with us or against us philosophy of diplomacy. Let's keep invading countries and be at war with everyone. Fuck the world and fuck Peace on Earth. Fuck Iran, fuck North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and everyone else. Fuck everybody. We're the goddamn United States, baby. George Bush taught us that. We don't need anyone. Who the hell is this Obama guy thinking we should actually act like statesmen and strive towards a new and lasting peace. What a pussy.....

Twitter Dumb and Twitter Dee


If I hear the word 'Twitter' one more time I think I'm going to go virtual postal. Same goes for Tweet, Tweeted, Twittering and Tweeter.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how much I hate Facebook, that colossal online abyss of narcissism and inanity. Well, I think Twitter--the micro-blog of 140-character vacuousness--annoys me even more.

Full disclosure: I am neither a 'Twit' (my name for Twitterers ) nor have I ever been on the ubiquitous site. And I don't need to be. I am simply sick and tired of how it's invaded the American lexicon, and culture, like all of these other internet sinkholes that continue to shut people off from each other while claiming to be "social networking" sites. Pretty soon moms will be tweeting their kids to come pick up their dinner plates so they can head back to their laptops for more of this incredible "socializing."

More disclosure: I'm on Facebook, where I've been known to be quite a shameless promoter of the various business dealings I'm involved with, which include those of a charitable nature. I believe sites like Facebook and Twitter do offer great business networking value. But unfortunately, it's become far less a business tool than a tool for extending one's Warholish 15 minutes to insufferable levels.

Last week we saw the inanity reach epidemic proportions with the self-described "Twitter Feud" between the actor Ashton Kutcher and cable news giant CNN over who could pile up 1-million Twits quicker (Kutcher won). This utter non-story quickly sucked up lots of valuable media time, with Larry King devoting almost his entire hour to it Friday night.

Does anyone really care how many Twits Kutcher has...besides of course, Kutcher himself and his loyal Twits? Is this really news? It's a sad commentary when, with two wars, terrorism and a devastating recession, Facebook and Twitter is where young people's passions get channeled and focused. It's unsettling how today's youth is so desensitized, disaffected and self-consumed. And it's not just kids who are addicted to this too-cool communication form. Hearing some age-loathing 50-year-old describe his Twittering is about as painful as listening to him gush about the latest Death Cab for Cutie concert.

Kutcher, whose Twitname is @aplusk (the kid's clever, huh?), was joined on King's program by rap and fashion mogul P. Puffy Daddy Diddy, or whatever he calls himself these days. The Puffster, when asked by King (btw....is there anything more embarrasing than Larry King describing his own hipster Twitting?) why he Tweets, His Diddyness lamented that, "People know me for the persona of the Hamptons, bling, who I'm dating, and there's more substance to me than that." Twitter, he said, allows him to cut out "the middleman;" the media, which he blames for his self-admittedly shallow public persona. So let's get this straight. He's not shallow because he's a jewelry-heavy, model-datin', Hamptons-hangin' bad boy; he's shallow because the press covers it all. Yup, this sure sounds like a problem that non-stop Twittering can fix. And I'm sure his 600,000 followers will eagerly soak up all his words of wisdiddydom. Actually, in fact, I just realized there is something more embarrassing than King talking about his Twittering: Diddy whining about how nobody understands him.

And then there's Mr. One-Million himself. "At the end of the day we all have ego," said Kutcher, the self-proclaimed Twit "Jester" in a ginormous "duh" revelation. In explaining that everyone has their own "Twitter DNA" (huh?), he defines Twitter as "an ego stream," and then modestly declares that it'll be a good thing if people like him can use Twitter to "change the world." Can you say, self-important? This coming from a guy who's biggest claim to fame is Punking his celebrity pals and having stepkids almost as old as he is (ok, I exaggerate, but I have comedic license). I'm just not exactly sure that we've seen any "world-changing" initiatives coming out of Kutcher or anyone else on Twitter. But we sure as hell have seen a lot of that ego he talks about.

Ok, I'm done ranting. I'm gonna go scr@tch my ass now. Hey, maybe I should Tweet that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Parties: GOP Once Again Manipulating the Average Joe


During the eight miserable, ineffective and wasteful years of the Bush administration, Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove, the president's chief political advisor, deftly crafted a successful strategy of turning the "little guy" on himself. That being, to divert and distract these Average Joes away from the real issues that effect them--unemployment, wages, health care, education--and instead drive them to the polls through hot-button issues including abortion, gay-marriage and life-support (Terri Schiavo). For a long while, it worked. The little guy consistently voted against his own self-interests.

But the little guy's not completely stupid, and the inevitable backlash began with the 2006 midterm elections where Democrats won a small Congressional majority, and kicked into high gear last November, with Barack Obama's presidential victory and the Democratic landslide in the House and Senate. Dejected, the GOP crawled away a broken, dysfunctional family. A tarnished brand. But as this year's tax season rolled around, conservatives issued a rallying cry in the form of "tea parties," those ill-founded, embarrassing, scantly attended protests that were held Wednesday across the nation. Though touted by organizers (most likely GOP funded and supported) as being attended by "Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents," judging from the crowds and the signs they waved, it was pretty clear this was a decidedly anti-Obama movement. And that's the insane part.

What the demonstrators are protesting is what they believe to be higher taxes and wasteful government spending, in particular the $787-billion stimulus plan and the $3-trillion bailouts of banks, Wall Street and the auto industry. But the not-so-comic irony here is that the Obama administration has yet to impose one single tax increase on anyone. To the contrary, it's giving income tax cuts to 95% of Americans, and gives additional tax cuts and credits for small businesses, tuition payers and home buyers. The only individuals that could be hit with an actual tax increase are those whose annual incomes exceed $250,000. An increase, mind you, that's still a full 10 points less than the rates during the Reagan presidency. But I didn't see any seemingly rich dudes in NY, Chicago, DC and elsewhere parking their Benz's and raising any protest signs at these rallies. The crowds, though small, were filled with the same types who've been used and abused before: low and middle-income taxpayers who ironically stand to gain the most from Obama's tax policies. And once again, they've somehow been manipulated by the GOP through lies, misinformation and perhaps even racial bias.

I nearly cringed when I saw on Neil Cavuto's Fox News show a few people in the crowd jeering one of the guests being interviewed, a woman from a progressive/green organization, who supports taxing the rich. It was as if the poor and middle class in the crowd had been brainwashed into defending those mistreated rich folk at the hands of the elitist Obama.

In case anyone hasn't noticed, there are many recent signs that the economy may finally be turning around. There's been several positive indicators in the banking, home, retail and auto sectors. The credit markets are opening up. The stock market's had the best rally since the Great Depression. And, there hasn't been one bank/Wall Street failure since the bailouts. Maybe, just maybe, the government's fiscal policies which began in the Fall under George Bush and then expanded under Obama are working? And maybe those misguided protesters--the ones out across America yakking about Obama as if he was the biggest socialist since Karl Marx--should realize that these same policies are the ones that will help create jobs; protect savings; make home-buying more affordable; make tuition easier to pay; create universal health care; make the US more energy efficient; and, overall, resuscitate this ailing economy.

But the GOP sees opportunity here to revive its heretofore comatose, dispirited base. What a better, time-tested, tried-and-true conservative cause-celebre than taxes? It's the Republicans trying to create something out of nothing. But will this populist approach work? Will the newly-energized "Contract with America" folks like Newt Gingrich succeed in creating a groundswell of support over this issue and thus breathe new life into the near-dead Republican Party? A new Gallup poll released this week shows that 53%of Americans approve of big government spending to fix the economy, and 48% think that the federal income taxes they pay are "about right," indicating the lowest anti-tax sentiment in 50 years. And President Obama enjoys impressive overall approval ratings. Judging from yesterday's meager turnouts--so weak they should be called "Decaffeinated" Tea Parties--it appears these tea-baggers are nothing more than a fringe minority.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ostroy on FoxNews.com's Strategy Room Thursday at 2PM with Host Alan Colmes


Back to Fox News Thursday for another round of spirited political debate on the Strategy Room. I'll be on the 2PM hour with host Alan Colmes. Man, I wish Hannity were there too. Would love a crack at that guy! Watch it live at www.foxnews.com/strategyroom.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ostroy on FoxNews.com's Strategy Room Tuesday at 10am


I'll be on FoxNews.com's Strategy room again tomorrow morning (Tuesday) at 10am. Join us for a lively roundtable discussion of the hot political topics of the day. Watch it live at www.foxnews.com/strategyroom.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Here's a Little Challenge for Iowa's Homophobic Republican Legislators


Last week Iowa's State Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for gays and lesbians to legally marry. It's been hailed across the country as a bold, landmark measure that could ripple throughout other states.

Of course, the ruling has caused outrage and protest among conservatives, those god-fearing upholders of the great institution of heterosexual marriage. And in response to the Iowa Court's action, the state's House Republicans are vowing to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and threatening major political consequence to opposing Democrats (who just happen to control both the House and State Senate).

But before these narrow-minded, sanctimonious hypocrites go off full-cocked (pun intended) to amend the state's Constitution, perhaps they'd accept a little challenge. How about taking lie detector tests in which three key questions are asked:

1. Have you ever cheated on your spouse?

2. Have you cheated on your spouse more than once?

3. Have you ever engaged in homosexual activity?

Since the primary justification (and fear) behind banning gay marriage is that it threatens the sanctity of heterosexual unions, I believe we have a right to know how many straight and closeted gay Republican philanderers--along the likes of Bob Barr, Newt Gingrich, David Vitter, Vito Fossella, Larry Craig and Mark Foley--there are in Iowa's chambers before we allow them to pass judgement, and law, on others' morals.

In fact, let's roll the dice and make a bet with these right wing frauds: if, as expected, more than 25% of them fail the lie-detector test not only is the court's ruling upheld, but this issue is put to bed (pun intended) in Iowa forever. If not, they get to keep fighting for their constitutional amendment. On one thing everyone can agree: it'd be pretty hard to "protect" the sanctity of an "institution" that at least 25% of them piss on every day.

So c'mon, Iowa Republicans, are you ready to prove that you practice what you preach? We won't hold our breath.....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ann Coulter Needs to Shut the F**K Up (...and Other Random Thoughts)


It's time. Once and for all, Ann Coulter needs to shut her trap and simply disappear. For when she opens her mouth, nothing but outlandish, irresponsible, incendiary projectile vomit spews forth. She's a one-woman broadcast cesspool with a maniacal cackle and obnoxious permanent smirk. A vile, bigoted, narrow-minded, hate-filled, mocking, rabble-rousing contemptible miscreant who's infinitely more anti-American than any of the alleged "radicals" who reap her psychotic wrath. Her idea of patriotism is to incessantly trash our new president and commander-in-chief on his military leadership during wartime. Her idea of being a "great American" (a label staunch conservatives like Coulter, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh bestow on each other) is to proudly wear her homophobia and racial and religious intolerance on her sleeve like a badge of honor. Some say she's really smart and it's all just a big ruse to sell books and make money. I say she's evil personified regardless, and a danger to society. Yes, a danger, because there's a legion of massively uninformed, highly-impressionable folks out there all too eager to hang onto her mean-spirited lies, misinformation and character assassinations as if they were the truth.

JOE BIDEN, GEORGE BUSH AND KARL ROVE
Vice President Joe Biden, in boasting of President Barack Obama's recent 8-day overseas diplomatic trip, suggested to Fox News' Megyn Kelly that former President Bush was not an effective commander-in-chief: ...."I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office...Joe, he said, I'm a leader. And I said, Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one's following. People are beginning to follow the United States again as a consequence of our administration."

And that little anecdote got the panties of that Republican arbiter of truth, Karl Rove, in a snit: "I hate to say it, but he's a serial exaggerator. If I was being unkind, I'd say he's a liar." We should all take what Rove says quite seriously, as exaggeration and lies is his specialty.

DID OBAMA BOW TO SAUDI KING?
The right-wing attack-machine is in full throttle this weekend over the "controversy" of whether President Obama "bowed" to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah during the recent G-20 Summit. One little bow? Is this really worse than the Bush family's decades-long ass-kissing orgy with the Saudi's? Let me remind my flame-throwing counterparts on the right about Dubya's make-out and hand-holding session with the Saudi Prince shortly after 9/11. Enjoy:



"PIRATES" HOLD AMERICAN HOSTAGE
A serious melodrama is unfolding off the coast of Somalia as Capt. Richard Phillips is being held captive on a boat. But can we please stop referring to the armed Somalis who've kidnapped him as "pirates?" This term conjures up Johnny Depp-like images of swashbuckling charmers with eye-patches shouting "Aye, Matey, where's the whiskey?! Arggggg!" Let's call them what they really are: vicious blood-thirsty terrorists.

IRAQ: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED?
Five American soldiers were killed in Iraq Friday in a suicide-bomb attack in the northern city of Mosul, the deadliest attack against U.S. troops in over a year. The increase in deadly violence threatens the June deadline for withdrawal of American combat troops from cities, part of a U.S-Iraqi agreement which took effect this year. The top U.S. commander, Gen. Raymond Odierno, warned this week that we could instead see an increase in U.S. troops in Mosul and Baqubah, and expressed concerns about the escalation in Sunni-militant-led violence among Arabs and Kurds in the north. He also cited the "very dangerous" threat from Iranian-funded militants. Given that we can't fully pull out our troops for at least another 16 months and the odds are, as the good General says, we'll have to increase our troop strength shortly in some major northern cities, it's unbelievable how the Republicans and Bush apologists still get away with their claims of success for the surge and for the war itself. Any idiot can see how fragile Iraq's Democracy is, and that without our troops, the country will likely fall like a house of cards.


On another note, check out the Second Annual Adrienne Shelly Foundation eBay auction. There are 39 amazing items up for bidding including 20 private lunches with major celebrities including Paul Rudd, Jeremy Sisto, David Schwimmer, Rachel Dratch, Edie Falco, Jon Hamm, Lily Taylor, Gina Gershon, John Slattery, Rosanna Arquette, Nathan Fillion, Keri Russell and Kevin Smith. There's also movie walk-ons (wanna be in a film with Bruce Willis? Drew Barrymore?), VIP television show tickets (Rachael Ray, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Ellen DeGeneres), a signed Meg Ryan original photograph, movie premiere/party tickets, Sundance and Tribeca Film Festival VIP packages and more. It's all for a great cause, so check it out and place some bids if you can. Click here to be directed to our eBay Store.

Celebrities Come Out Big For Adrienne Shelly Foundation eBay Auction


Most people know me here as a guy who frequently rants about the latest Dick Cheney drivel, the Republicans being the "Party of No," or how ludicrous it is to award million-dollar bonuses to Wall Street's TARP babies. Throw in a little Obama euphoria and that's me in a nutshell. But what they don't often know is that I also run a non-profit foundation that supports women filmmakers with scholarships, production grants, finishing funds and living stipends, and that this foundation carries the name of my late wife, Adrienne Shelly, who was brutally murdered in 2006.

Adrienne wrote, directed and starred in Waitress, the critically-acclaimed box-office hit of 2007. But it was not the first feature film she wrote and directed. There were two others. She struggled, like most filmmakers--especially women filmmakers--to get their work produced. And it is in her honor that the Adrienne Shelly Foundation was founded to help other very talented women get their films made.

On Monday we launched the Second Annual Adrienne Shelly Foundation eBay auction. There are 39 amazing items up for bidding including 20 private lunches with major celebrities including Paul Rudd, Jeremy Sisto, David Schwimmer, Rachel Dratch, Edie Falco, Jon Hamm, Lily Taylor, Gina Gershon, John Slattery, Rosanna Arquette, Nathan Fillion, Keri Russell and Kevin Smith. There's also movie walk-ons (wanna be in a film with Bruce Willis? Drew Barrymore?), VIP television show tickets (Rachael Ray, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Ellen DeGeneres), a signed Meg Ryan original photograph, movie premiere/party tickets, Sundance and Tribeca Film Festival VIP packages and more.

It's all for a great cause, so check it out and place some bids if you can. Click here to be directed to our eBay Store.

As a side note, Adrienne wrote a script after Waitress called Serious Moonlight. It's a film I'm producing with Waitress producer Michael Roiff, and it has its world premiere April 25th at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Directed by Cheryl Hines, it stars Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Justin Long and Kristen Bell. How wonderful that movie audiences will get to see another Adrienne Shelly-penned film.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Ostroy On Monday's FoxNews.com Strategy Room


It's back into the studio Monday at 1PM for another round of hot political talk. We never really know what's gonna be discussed ahead of time, but you can be sure it'll include North Korea's missile test, Obama's European trip, General Motors, and the new Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bonuses. Watch it live at www.foxnews.com/strategyroom.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Fannie and Freddie's Fuzzy Math: $100 Billion in Losses = $210 Million in Bonuses. Bring on the Outrage


Back in January, President Barack Obama said it was "shameful" that near-bankrupt insurance giant and bailout-baby AIG was awarding $400-million in "retention" bonuses to the very same reckless Wall Street cowboys who damned-near sank the entire U.S. financial industry with their ultra-high-risk credit default swaps and derivatives shenanigans.

In the ensuing weeks and months, Obama's personal outrage turned into a massive anger-fueled populist movement that called for everything from an immediate return of the bonus money to criminal prosecution of those who took it. How dare they was the overriding sentiment in Washington, Albany (NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo demanded a return of the money against threats of publicly naming the executives), the media, and in living rooms across America. Legislation soon followed, with a 90% tax on the bonus money. There, that'll show 'em.

And now comes the news that failed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--which own or insure more than half of the nation's mortgages--are about to hand out $210-million in bonuses of their own, also to "retain" the high-priced failures who've nearly destroyed them, and who for some reason they can't seem to live without. The bonuses will cover 7,600 employees and are as high as $1.5 million. Yes, these are the same two behemoths who combined lost $100 billion last year.

The kicker here? The Fannie/Freddie bonuses have been defended by the companies' Federal regulator, James B. Lockhart III of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, who intends to approve the payouts. Lockhart is a Bush man, appointed by the former president in 2006. Obama has the power to name a new chief regulator, but he so far hasn't, which is a mystery. So what we're left with then is a de facto endorsement of these outrageous bonuses by the Obama administration, and therefore an inexplicable contradiction of its prior public thrashing of AIG.

Lockhart, the taxpayer-paid G-man, incredibly espouses the same hogwash regurgitated ad nauseam by the Wall Street brass themselves: "These payments send a signal that we think people are important and we want to keep them. If the bonuses are rescinded, it sends the exact opposite signal, and it would be extremely dangerous for the American economy to lose these workers at this point."

Excuse me? I'll tell ya what signal it sends. It says we in this country don't know what the fuck we're doing. It says to the world that we let a bunch of greedy gamblers create insanely high-risk financial instruments which erased trillions in investor equity and then saved their sorry asses with taxpayer-funded bailouts. Oh, and we then gave them million-dollar bonuses as rewards for manufacturing this unprecedented shitstorm. How's that for a signal?

Citi Field, Shmiti Field. I Want Shea Back


So in just a few short days the NY Mets baseball team will have its first 2009 home game in its brand-new stadium, Citi Field. Though many of my Metsy friends are ecstatic and can't wait to pay the higher ticket prices, I say bah-humbug. I could care less about the new park and have no intention of ever going. Ok, that's me belly-aching today, and I'm sure there'll be a game or two I'm dragged to, but my heart just ain't in it. In fact, I find the whole commercial motivation behind Shea's demise offensive and disheartening.

For the record, I have been a mad-crazy Mets fan for 40 years ever since Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, Tom Seaver, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Koosman and my favorite, No 22, first-baseman Donn Clendenon, were among the "Amazin's" who gave us that miracle season in '69. I never looked back. Which is why I feel tearing down Shea was sacriligious.

Baseball is America's pastime. It's how and where lifetime memories are made. Memories that include family, friends and co-workers. What's baseball without a strong sense of nostalgia? Will any of us be able to peer across Citi Field and remember their first game with mom and dad? Will any of us be able to spot the seats we sat in the first time we went to a game alone with our teenage pals? Or that great date we were on? Or the night out with the office boys? Or the annual games with our childhood friends? Or when we took our own sons and daughters for their first game? Or what about sitting in a place that saw two incredible World Series Championships? Or where those four kids from Liverpool created musical history? That's what Shea means to me. Citi Field, you say? No thanks.

Yes, baseball is apple pie. It's not sushi or some trendy gourmet Danny Meyer restaurant. It's about enjoying the game, not shopping is some new ritzy store. Baseball is an American tradition for the massses. It's supposed to be where a family of four can spend a glorious Summer afternoon without needing an AIG-like bonus. Those days are gone.

Call me crazy, but I like life simple. For me, happiness was a hot dog, a cold beer, sunshine and my Shea memories. I enjoyed the crappy seats, the bad angles, the lousy food, the joy that was orange and blue. All I needed was my Shea and my Mets.

Adding insult to injury, couldn't they have at least kept the name Shea instead of bestwoing this honor on some near-bankrupt, TARP-fund-guzzling dinasaur? Citicorp will be shelling out $400 million over 20 years for the right to hang its tarnished shingle over the new stadium. To me, a life-long Mets fan and taxpayer whose money is part of Citi's $45 billion government bailout, it all just stinks.