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Friday, December 31, 2004

Final Post of 2004!

If you're still looking for a New Year's Resolution, the government wants to help (via Wonkette).

Dave Barry wrote my favorite year-end article. No lists of movies or albums or other stuff I've never heard of that makes me feel dumb, just jokes like this from the part on June:

President Bush meets with the pope and, in impromptu remarks afterward, describes him as "a great American." John Kerry, campaigning in Michigan, strangles a deer.

Link via Begging to Differ.

I'll be ingensting a lot of football this weekend, starting with the bowl games. My favorite is always the Rose Bowl--I would watch Keith Jackson announce a Pop Warner game--but this year I'm a little annoyed at Texas coach Mack Brown for getting others to change their poll votes to get his team catapulted over Cal (maybe Tom DeLay helped him with the maneuver). The Cal-Michigan matchup would've fit with the Big Ten/Pac Ten tradition, and Cal deserved the spot as well. Of course, the Bears were pissed they ended up in the Holday Bowl and they got ripped by Texas Tech last night. At least Texas is facing the hostility in California now.

Also, the idiots who run the BCS should've put Auburn and Utah against each other since both are undefeated. I'll not get into the BCS-bashing that I did a year ago; those arguments have all been made over and over (I'm for a playoff).

The BCS takes a break on Sunday for Week 17 of the NFL season. The pro football finale means we get to contemplate all of the fascinating playoff scenarios, such as these for St. Louis:

St. Louis can clinch division with:

1) STL win + SEA loss.

St. Louis can clinch playoff berth with:

1) STL win + MIN loss, OR
2) STL win + NO/CAR game ends in tie.

Click the link above, there will be a quiz during the Sunday pregame shows.

I gave up the NFL prognosticating mid-season, and I'll not re-start now (OK, maybe I'll make a fool of myself again when the playoffs arrive). Let's just say that two of the teams that I mocked most mercilessly earlier this season, Buffalo and New Orleans, might clinch playoff berths this weekend.

I'll be back to the grind of my normal life shortly, and I'll do my best to keep blogging regularly. The new template is mostly set now, though I may keep tinkering with it some. I need to add a new "About" post for the occasional visitor who might care. I'll also put my email address back up, in case people want to send me New Year's wishes or death threats that way. And to the conservative guy I had the email exchange with about taxes and economic mobility a while back, I've got a link from this week's Economist just for you.

To close, I urge you to fire up the Howard Dean scream remixes once again, for old time's sake. This all happened way back in January (and I had a bit too much fun with these, as you might recall), but I think they encapsulated 2004 so well: a year that began with energetic optimism and quickly degenerated into bizarrely playful mockery.

Merry 2005.

Pat Tillman and the Hall of Fame

This week on Inside the NFL, Cris Collinsworth made the argument that the NFL Hall of Fame should induct Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman, who famously was killed this year fighting in Afghanistan. There's been a bit of a movement afoot to get this done, and I have to disagree strongly.

Peter King gave the counterargument on the show, saying Hall inductions need to be solely based on on-field performance. A column at a Kansas City Chiefs site says it well:

Many would have liked to have seen former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman made eligible for the Hall of Fame after he was killed by friendly fire last April while serving as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. But in addition to the waiting period, Hall of Fame guidelines dictate that players be considered strictly upon their on-field abilities. While Tillman was a Hall of Fame human being, he was not a Hall of Fame player.

Perhaps there can be some sort of a compromise by putting up a memorial or display on Tillman in Canton without formally inducting him as a Hall of Fame player.

Tell Us What You Really Think, Jeff Danziger

Behold Our Generosity

Andrew Natsios of USAID writes about how the administration response to the tsunami really has been adequate (honest!):

After the most powerful earthquake in 40 years triggered tidal waves Sunday that killed more than 117,000 people, USAID moved into action even before I had left church.

Isn't he a good, moral man, attending church and all? How could such a man of faith be criticized?

Please, spare me the PR campaign and just do the work. Thanks.

Besides being a former chieftain of the now-leaky Big Dig project, Natsios made some unfortunate remarks in his early days running USAID:

Twice this week, Natsios, a former Massachusetts official who only a month ago started his job as head of US Agency for International Development, said administering AIDS treatment in Africa would be extremely difficult because of a paucity of health infrastructure and because most Africans don't have clocks or watches and thus could not take medication at specific times.

He made the comments in an interview with the Globe and before the House International Relations Committee on Thursday.

In many parts of Africa, "people do not know what watches or clocks are," he said before the committee. "They do not use Western means to tell time. They use the sun. These drugs have to be administered in certain sequences, at certain times during the day. You say, take it at 10 o'clock, they say, what do you mean, 10 o'clock?"

With that sensitivity toward the third world, clearly this is a man well-suited for the task of distributing humanitarian assistance.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

One More Reason Why I Like Not Having a Car

While the rest of the world contemplates Tsunami relief, Boston is currently witnessing a big stink over parking space markers. For those not from Boston, this is one of our annual rituals in which after a snow storm (we got a foot-plus the day after Christmas), people in the city mark parking spaces they shoveled out with chairs, trash cans, and various and sundry other items. The implication is that if you take a spot that someone else laboriously cleared, you are in trouble. Your car might get vandalized, I guess.

The mayor is cracking down on place-marking, and South Boston, summoning the spirit of the busing era, is resisting this imposition on its traditional ways. I gave my thoughts in a comment to Adam G's post on the acrimony, and there's a discussion of the Southie landscape going on here.

Expected Legislation from the President

The New Yorker got a scoop on what to expect from Bush's second term:

The Tax Simplification Act: Beginning in 2005, all taxpayers in the top one-per-cent income bracket will pay a flat one-per-cent tax, taxpayers in the top two-per-cent bracket will pay a flat two-per-cent tax, and so on.

The Endangered Species Preservation Act: All endangered species will immediately be preserved by a national corps of expert taxidermists.

The Empowerment of the Elderly Act: All citizens age sixty-five and over will empower themselves by paying their Social Security benefits directly from their own savings accounts, instead of having to rely on the uncertainty of occasionally tardy mailings from the federal government.

The Affordable Health Care for Everyone Act: All persons, regardless of age, sex, race, or income, will, for a nominal fee, be issued a Band-Aid, two aspirins, a Tums, a wallet-size card illustrating the Heimlich Maneuver, a recipe for chicken soup, and a leech.

I think this is meant as parody, but it might end up being closer to accurate than we want to believe.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Majoring in faulty comparisons

Derrick Z. Jackson, whose work I generally admire, is still hung up on his college sports and graduation statistics obsession today, making a laughable comparison between cross-country teams and football and basketball programs. I bet college chess teams have higher graduation rates too, not that that proves anything.

Not stingy on the UN-bashing, at least

Now the don't-blame-America-first crowd is crowing over the paltry French tsunami-relief contribution.

But if they had actually stopped to look at the initial remark that started this furor, they might realize the "stingy" comment was applied to all western countries:

"We will do more," Mr. Powell said on ABC's "Good Morning America," one of a series of television appearances apparently intended to rebut the comment on Monday by Jan Egeland, the emergency relief coordinator for the United Nations, that the West had generally been "stingy" in its aid to poor countries. ...

Mr. Egeland responded to Mr. Powell's criticism by saying that he had been misunderstood and that he had not been referring to aid for the quake and tsunami victims but to the overall trend in recent years by Western countries in aiding the poor. He said pledges for the current crisis had been "most generous."

"I have been misinterpreted when I yesterday said that my belief that rich countries in general can be more generous," Mr. Egeland added. "This has nothing to do with any particular country or the response to this emergency."

Last time I checked, France is also a western country (oh yes, they are aligned with Osama bin Laden now, I forgot).

I don't pretend to know jack about disaster relief or how to gauge whether the US is making an adequate response. I do think it's rather unfortunate that we throw away an opportunity to make common cause with other countries by letting a situation degenerate into such name-calling, though.

Kerry On

Wednesday's Boston Globe city section reports that some vigilers in Louisburg Square still hold out hope for a Kerry presidency.

The little knot of demonstrators, calling themselves the Coalition Against Election Fraud, stood shivering in the cold yesterday, hoisting signs and pressing fliers into the hands of bewildered passersby. Taxi drivers, neighbors digging cars out of the snow, and Beacon Hill residents who happened to be strolling by were subjected to earnest pleas to join the cause.

"Who knows? Maybe we'll overturn the election," said Sheila Parks, a vigil organizer.

Someone needs to tell these people that the Ohio recount changed the margin in that state by just 300 votes.

A letter writer to the Globe also today chides Kerry as "missing in action" for not speaking out about prisoner abuse in Guantanamo, violence in Iraq, social security privatization and judicial nominations. The obvious answer to this is that Kerry just lost a presidential election and it's time to cede the stage for a while, at least until Bush is inaugurated again. Gore did the same, going off for a stretch to grow a beard, before re-emerging to give his memorable endorsement of Howard Dean and to denounce the Bushies is strident speeches. You don't exactly see the likes of Bill Clinton criticizing Bush in the press every day (the tsunami kerfuffle notwithstanding), and I think the idea that Kerry is now the "head of the Democratic party" is clearly wrong too. Kerry will most certainly not be nominated again, and he knows it.

Finally, I'm a bit confused by the "Kerry Sucked" post that has generated lots of comment over at AmericaBlog. Yes, John Kerry certainly did suck, so I don't know why the question is posed about "why it's ok to talk about everyone else who screwed up but not Kerry?"

First off, I personally complained about Kerry from the night of his Iowa comeback onward. My first post-election post reiterated my view that Kerry wasn't a good choice for a candidate. I think I'm hardly unique on this, and I've brought the same point to bear on other post-election analyses. For example, in the Democrats' abortion discussion of last week, I emphasized that we must keep sight of the fact that the party had a weak spokesman this cycle, which may have overpowered any effect from a substantive stance on the issue.

But beyond all of this, the simple reason that Kerry doesn't figure much in the election post-mortems is that it's a given that he won't be the party's standard-bearer in 2008. That other elements of the party structure will stick around is a lot more likely, unless something is done to reform them. Dissecting the personal failing of John Kerry in responding weakly to the Vietnam veteran attacks, for instance, might not have all that much direct relevance to the next fight for the White House, whereas reconsidering what the Democratic Party says about abortion and other issues could have a real impact.

Complaint to the NYT Webmaster

The second column from David Brooks listing his favorite essays of the year isn't hyperlinked like the first part was. Confound you!

Best of Bill Simmons

They're re-posting several Simmons columns from the past year, so go read them while you can, before they disappear again behind the "Insider" logo on ESPN.com.

The Boston Sports-Pearl Jam Connection

Oops, one more NBA-related item. There was a nice Globe article Tuesday profiling Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck that's worth a read. Not only do we learn that Wyc is short for "Wycliffe"--I had been hoping he was "Wyclef"--but we learn about the man's musical tastes:

He likes hard rock and harder rock. Driving to and from work in his Lincoln Aviator -- vanity plate CELTIX -- chances are Pearl Jam is in the CD player.

This comes on the heels of the Theo Epstein article (I blogged the Red Sox GM winning the Globe Magazine's Bostonian of the Year honor yesterday), which told us:

Around him is a bottle of 2004 World Champions Champagne, his acoustic guitar, a framed picture of his niece, and a framed-but-not-yet-hung double platinum album signed by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.

Peter Gammons and Bronson Arroyo are also huge Pearl Jam fans, playing the band's songs at the annual Sox music fundraiser. Is there some cosmic connection between sports in this town and the tone of Eddie Vedder's voice?

While I'm writing like this, I'll note the Glenn Reynolds swipe at Green Day. I wonder if the good prof is aware of their Grammy nominations? Also, while it's true these guys have opposed Bush, they have never exactly put themselves forward as policy wonks, either, from anyone who is aware of the group's public persona. "American Idiot" pretty well summed up my feeling this November, and regarding the whole election spectacle this year, in fact.

From WNBA to NBA

Michael Cooper, former head coach of the Los Angeles WNBA team, is now the interim head coach of the Denver Nuggets after Jeff Bzdelik was fired Tuesday. To my knowledge, this is the first such cross-over coaching move in pro basketball. What will really be noteworthy is when a woman becomes the head coach of an NBA team (don't hold your breath).

A few other NBA notes:

I watched some of the Celtics debacle in Dallas earlier tonight. Mike Gorman kicked off the broadcast by saying he thought Erick Dampier was overrated and got too much money from the Mavs in the offseason. Dampier proceeded then to get dunks on consecutive possessions. The Celtics really can't play any defense, it's rather pathetic.

Vince Carter, in a fitting New Jersey debut, left the Detroit game with cramps in overtime Monday, and his team went on to lose. The guy is pretty brittle, not quite on a par with Terrell Owens trying to walk off a broken leg.

Also, since I never have stated this and have meant to, hooray for the return of Hubie Brown to NBA announcing! And on ABC, no less! Sadly, I only saw the Lakers-Heat Xmas matchup with the sound down when I was able to extract my gaze from visiting company now and then, and I couldn't listen in as I saw Hubie gesticulating on the screen. This should make the NBA Finals watchable again.

And finally, even if it's not on basketball, Tony Kornheiser's Tuesday column got me laughing today with a story about how Baltimore Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson was arrested for reckless operation of his jet ski in Aruba. Ponson is a knight in his native Aruba ("Sir Sidney"), yet that doesn't get him out of jail, and apparently there's no bail in Aruba (you learn something every day, so be careful next time you visit):

Shouldn't being a knight entitle him to something? Shouldn't a knight automatically be given a "get out of jail in Aruba free" card? What's the point of being a knight in Aruba if you can't cuff a judge around a little bit, huh? You don't see the Brits tossing Sir Paul McCartney into the hoosegow, do you? But I digress.

I love Tony Kornheiser so much, he even makes the pompous Michael Wilbon enjoyable to watch on their joint TV show.

Minister of Defense Defrocked

Bravo to Richard Sandomir for calling the NFL pregame shows on their White-washing of the life of Reggie White in their remembrances.

Lou D'Ermilio, a spokesman for Fox Sports, said, "The decision was made to celebrate his on-field achievements, focusing on the positives of his life."

LeslieAnn Wade, a spokeswoman for CBS Sports, said, "We chose to focus on his overall outstanding impact as a person and his outstanding career as a player."

Basically, they decided to be happy and nice and ignore the unhappy, controversial stuff that I wrote about here.

What I think Sandomir gets slightly wrong, though, is his explanation that the TV people decided "to tell heartwarming tales that they believe fans love to hear." I think the White-washing had a lot more to do with the networks' not wanting to piss of the NFL, especially in light of the continuing contract negotiations for renewal of the TV rights.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Iraqi Voter Registration

I thought the pro-war talking points were that the Iraqis were getting registered to participate in the January 30 election in droves. Then I read the Christian Science Monitor:

According to the memo, about 200,000 people made corrections and about 650,000 made new registrations. Divided into the total number of eligible voters - about 15 million - they come out to about 5.6 percent.

The numbers are approximate, and data from Anbar province is still missing. But the low numbers may mean that some people won't be able to vote if their food ration cards are inaccurate or outdated.

I would say that 5.6% is a big problem, as are the other things detailed in the CSM piece. The Iraq happy-talk blogger wrote an Opinion Journal article last week on the wonders of the election registration process, but he doesn't contradict the 5.6% statistic. That the Iraqi ambassador to the US is now writing op-eds about considering an election postponement is another serious warning signal.

Look, I'm anxious to get a real election over with so that a legit Iraqi government is in place and can start taking over so that our military engagement won't go on forever. However, an election that is seriously flawed could produce even more problems than it solves. This is looking not so good to me.

Susan Sontag...

...is dead, and there's the lengthy NYT obit via Ezra Klein. Now I wonder who Andrew Sullivan will name his year-end awards after, since using the name of a recently deceased person would probably be bad form.

Todd Pinkston

He's taking lots of crap from turning away from balls, and it's probably deserved to some extent, but I think people need to remember that he's a thin dude. Especially with Terrell Owens out now, Pinkston can't help the Eagles much if he gets laid out like Robert Ferguson. Sometimes it might be the prudent move to live to play another day, though pulling up in three straight games seems excessive, I agree.

Tsunami fear-mongering

Naturally, the TV nets are playing up the "could it happen here?" angle of the tsunami story to try to boost ratings. We also have alarmist pieces like this in the New York Daily News:

A British researcher insists that it's only a matter of time before a killer tsunami like the one that swamped south Asia hits New York and the East Coast. ...

Towering waves of up to 75 feet would engulf the city, traveling miles inland, destroying everything in their path, he told the Daily News in August.

Does anyone else remember killer bees? Or Y2K?

UPDATE: This may have been the NYDN's lesser sin considering today's cover story.

On to Iran

The Weekly Standard says we should launch a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. I'll give the editorial credit for recognizing a lot of potential counterarguments. One they don't touch on, though, is that even assuming we might have some idea of where to drop some bombs (maybe better than the knowledge we had of Iraq's illicit materials), this would be going back to the pinprick bombing policy of the Clinton administration that we know has been much derided by the Bushies.

Haven't we been told that this type of a strike is ultimately ineffectual? Don't we need to sweep in and depose the government by force in order to implement American-style democracy? And isn't our entire military busy in Iraq and Afghanistan right now? A ground invasion of Iran is an impossibility any time soon (lest I bring up the dreaded D-word), yet anything less seems somehow inconsistent with the Bush approach to such matters.

He Can't Really Be a 2008 Candidate, Right?

Newsweek writes up Rick Santorum, maybe just to balance out the Obama cover, and I learn some nifty facts. For example, the senator (whom the blogosphere has frequently accused of engaging in unnatural acts with dogs) smoked a good bit of marijuana in college. It's not like our current president's druggie past has mattered to the religious right a hell of a lot, but I'd still like to see if we can get an "I didn't inhale" moment out of this.

Also, Santorum has six kids (at least he seems to be holding true to his principles in denouncing Griswold v. COnnecticut), all of whom are home-schooled. What message does that send? Aren't public officials supposed to at least pretend they have some faith in the educational system? I presume his wife must do the teaching, since a senator must have better things to do than drill his kids in algebra.

Then, of course, there are the nutty views on evolution and the like. How was this man elected senator in Pennsylvania, again?

One thing about his makeup that may hurt his ambition for higher office is that he doesn't take criticism well, or so says Howard Fineman in the article:

Some of the denunciations have been vituperative. "That comes with the territory, and I'm not upset with anybody," said Santorum, who in fact sounded upset, and who is not known for thick skin.

I expect the 2008 Republican contest to be highly vituperative, with the likes of Mitt Romney and Bill Frist readying for battle. I look forward to the Rick Santorum meltdown, not that those other two are any prizes either.

Cabinet of Incuriosities

Ron Suskind of Price of Loyalty fame writes in Tuesday's NYT that the second-term cabinet members are basically tools of the White House. "This is not to disparage any of the president's selections," Suskind laughably adds toward the end, reminding me of Antonin Scalia's dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, in which he mentioned as an aside that he had nothing against gay people.

Sadly, I think Suskind is spot on, as he was in the book about Paul O'Neill. An unfortunate consequence of this column dissing John Snow is that Suskind probably has ruined his chances of doing a follow-up book about post-O'Neill Treasury Department insiderism.

The 2000s

Since I'm reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I feel like engaging in silly esoteric debates right now, and so I'll post on Tim Noah's article about naming the decade. I disagree with him in that I think that the 2000s (or "two thousands") is appropriate. Here's Noah:

Because there is no name for the present decade, people seeking to describe the spirit of the times often resort to substituting the name of the entire century (or, in extreme cases, the entire millenium). This is pompous and stupid.

I think it's possible to use the appellation "2000s" and make clear you're referring to the decade, not the whole century or millennium, from the context. From personal experience, I think this is already the most common name people use when referring to the decade. Perhaps a good approach might also be to ask what people called the first decade of the 20th century. I think it was the 1900s, and that wasn't referring to the whole century (for that people invoked "the twentieth century" just as we can talk about the 21st).

We also might get a better answer to this question from the usage that emerges in 2010 when people have to start referring back to the previous decade.

Monday, December 27, 2004

New 9/11 Conspiracy Theory!

Apparently on his Christmas sojourn in Iraq, Rummy said Flight 93 was shot down over Pennsylvania. The Pentagon claims he misspoke, and I have no reason to doubt that, given how much Rummy has screwed up other things, notably the planning (or lack thereof) for the war itself.

You might have though this came from some place like Democratic Underground, but the source cited by CNN as instigating the controversy is actually WorldNet Daily. Why would WorldNet (a right-wing site) be questioning the official story on 9/11 like this?

MORE: Tim Cavanaugh posts on the story.

Theo Is God

Red Sox GM has been declared "Bostonian of the Year" by the Boston Globe Magazine. I understand choosing someone related to the Red Sox sucess, but still it strikes me as a touch questionable given that the Globe has an ownership stake in the Sox (technically, the New York Times company owns both the Globe and part of the Red Sox). It's perhaps a few steps removed from declaring one of the paper's own columnists the journalist of the year.

Anyway, there are plenty of good bits in the story, among them:

    Epstein does an Ali G impression
    His parents tell him about the wacko callers to sports radio
    He was so stressed after the Nomar trade he took a sleeping pill
    He has no plan for a future political career

That last one is in spite of the urgings of some.

How about a political future? Don't count on it. Lajoie has told Epstein to get out of baseball after 10 years and run for senator and then president. "That's what I see in this man." Yet Leslie Epstein says Theo recently told him he has no interest in politics. That may surprise people who saw him stump for John Kerry in New Hampshire. But Epstein says that as strongly as he opposes the Bush administration, he was reluctant to mix baseball and politics. He agreed to speak out for Kerry only after seeing Schilling, during a live interview on Good Morning America, urge people to vote for Bush. (Both he and Schilling say the political divide in no way strained their friendship.)

So what does Epstein see himself doing down the road? He admits he doesn't want to be a GM forever. Eventually, he'd like to settle down and have a family, which is hard to picture right now. "There is no way a human being can physically maintain the work schedule and pace that Theo sets for himself," says John Henry. And, as much as baseball is at his core, he hopes someday to have an impact outside the game, something he sees his brother doing by improving the lives of the students he works with. "There are a lot of people suffering," he says. "My brother does something about it every day, and I don't. But I certainly will at some point."

That is a hell of a question: how does a 30-year-old GM top what he has already accomplished by getting the Red Sox a World Series championship? Sports Frog's garyclark noted after the World Series that he wouldn't want to have to deal with the expectations of being Epstein's son either.

Kurt Vonnegut on Christmas

While I'm a fan of Vonnegut's books, I'm really entirely clear what this Christmas thought was all about. Presumably the point is that a poor baby like Jesus wouldn't have much of a chance today without government assistance of some sort, the type Republicans are against providing to an adequate degree. But what to make of the Nigerian guy? Via the Hampster.

They're Trying to Build a Prison

Yes, it's very late, and I'm quoting System of a Down lyrics. Two more NYT links before I doze off...

Lock 'em up--the politics of overflowing prisons explained:

The influx of inmates has brought desperately needed jobs to the region and resulted in districts whose economies revolve around prison payrolls and whose politics are dominated by the union that represents corrections officers. The inmates also helped to save political careers in areas where legislative districts were in danger of having to be merged because of shrinking populations. Inmates, as it turned out, were magically transformed into "residents," thanks to a quirk in the census rules that counts them as living at their prisons.

This swells the voting rolls in upstate NY, which allows for more districts up there and in turn allows Republicans to retain a majority in the NY state senate. Good luck getting rid of the mandatory minimums in the Empire State. Even Russell Simmons can't get that done.

Also, when do I get written up in the fashion pages for my Blogspot musings? From an article outing the author of the (fictional) blog Anonymous Lawyer:

Anonymous Lawyer's comments about his view of the ocean from his 20th floor office have led to speculation that he works at Latham & Watkins outside Los Angeles.

"Very good possibility A.L. is one of the corporate partners at L.W. in Costa Mesa," one reader wrote.

Another reader countered: "Step back and ask yourself what partner making a fine six-figure salary with half a brain is going to risk being caught exposing various little secrets of this anonymous firm. My guess is A.L. is a current or former associate at an L.A. or L.A.-area firm."

As it turns out Anonymous Lawyer is Jeremy Blachman, a self-effacing 25-year-old third-year Harvard law student whose firsthand experience of Big Law comes down to a round of recruiting interviews last fall (at which he encountered the aforementioned chocolate-covered pretzels) and three months as a summer associate at a large Manhattan firm. While Anonymous Lawyer has been gloating over his view of the Pacific, Mr. Blachman has never even been to Los Angeles.

Now the guy has abandoned the idea of a legal career to pursue his dream of writing for TV, and the Times write-up certainly can't hurt in that regard. Another blogger's dream come true, I guess.

Victory for Viktor Y.!

Viktor Yuschenko, that is, not Yanukovych. Kriston did a good post on the Russia/Ukraine developments.

Reggie White

Good football player, but I disagreed with the man's views. I'm assuming the obits and remembrances will all deal delicately with his 1998 remarks to the Wisconsin legislature, so I'll post some of them here, first, on homosexuality:

White said the United States has gotten away from God, in part by allowing homosexuality to "run rampant."

Homosexuality is a sin, and the plight of gays and lesbians should not be compared to that of blacks, White told lawmakers.

"Homosexuality is a decision, it's not a race," White said. "People from all different ethnic backgrounds live in this lifestyle. But people from all different ethnic backgrounds also are liars and cheaters and malicious and back-stabbing."

(That's from CBS Sportsline back in '98.) Then, there was the section of the speech on the different races (from a good Working for Change article):

"When you look at the black race, black people are very gifted in what we call worship and celebration. A lot of us like to dance, and if you go to black churches, you see people jumping up and down, because they really get into it. White people were blessed with the gift of structure and organization. You guys do a good job of building businesses and things of that nature and you know how to tap into money pretty much better than a lot of people do around the world. Hispanics are gifted in family structure. You can see a Hispanic person and they can put 20 or 30 people in one home. They were gifted in the family structure. When you look at the Asians, the Asian is very gifted in creation, creativity and inventions. If you go to Japan or any Asian country, they can turn a television into a watch. They're very creative. And you look at the Indians, they have been very gifted in the spirituality."

As if this weren't enough, Reggie White helped ruin the Patriots first Super Bowl appearance back in January 1997, when I was a sophomore in high school. He beat Max Lane for sacks on consecutive plays in the second half (tackling Desmond Howard might have also helped in that game, as I recall). The linked piece is also funny for this quote:

"I thank God I was able to step up when I did," said White, playing in his 12th NFL season. "Eugene (Robinson) kept coming to me and saying, 'Isaiah 40:31 says we must mount up with wings of an eagle, run and not get weary, walk and not get tired.'"

This is the same Eugene Robinson who had a notorious run-in with the law at another Super Bowl two years later (see #10, first item listed in the article).

In case you didn't catch on yet, Reggie White, possibly the best defensive lineman of NFL history, died Sunday. Maybe he really was a great guy and all--I have no idea. I just want people to recall the above info as they read the unadulterated praise from the likes of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue: "Equally as impressive as his achievements on the field was the positive impact he made off the field and the way he served as a positive influence on so many young people."

Dimmy Karras: the blog not afraid to post unflattering facts about famous people when they die!

UPDATE: John from AmericaBlog has done some more fervently anti-Reggie Googling here and here, and he criticizes Tagliabue's remarks here (I don't blame Tagliabue, it's more our larger societal problem of white-washing, so to speak, someone's bad side post-mortem). Glenn Reynolds also checks in with a few kind words (adding that White "wasn't perfect") since apparently White played his college ball at Tennessee.

RELATED: While I'm railing about how bad people are protrayed as saints by media after they die, how about this ode to Marge Schott--the Hitler-admiring former owner of the Cincinnati Reds--from Sunday's NYT Mag dead people issue.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Fiddling While Rome Burns

The LA Times reports today that, in order to trim the deficit, "Medicare and Medicaid are prominent on Bush's likely hit list" as we enter the federal budgeting season. Governors are not happy:

"I certainly understand the need to balance the federal budget," said Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican and the vice chairman of the governors association. "But people need to remember that to balance the federal budget off the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy."

(Credit to Today's Papers and Pandagon)

Short version: Bush is paying for his big military budget and tax cuts for the wealthy by cutting medical care for the poor and elderly. Merry Christmas.

I have to agree with the overall message of Tom Friedman's annoyingly written Sunday op-ed, that this country has a messed up set of priorities. Tom also notes cuts in Pell grants and foreign aid announced this past week, and kudos for the dorky NPR references!

With these outrages occurring, there ought to be high-minded discussion on the Sunday morning programs, right? Nope. Meet the Press had freaking Dr. Phil as a guest this AM. Jeff Jarvis says that MTP has now officially jumped the shark.

Watch David Kirkpatrick

Okrent's happy year-ender as NYT ombud lists several changes, including this:

Recognizing that much of the country doesn't look the way it may sometimes appear from West 43rd Street, the paper assigned reporter David D. Kirkpatrick to cover political and social conservatives. (I will not deny that there is a certain irony in what may seem an affirmative action effort aimed at the political right.) And I'm absolutely convinced that the national desk has been making a clear and increasingly effective effort to scrub stories for evidence of bias.

Sounds like Mr. Kirkpatrick's work might make an interesting watch project for the blogs. I'll try to remember to look for his byline, lest the Times try to overcompensate and engage in excessively complimentary coverage of the moral values crowd.

Dumbest Comment on the Earthquake

This award goes to my sister. When the TV news this evening reported that a lot of resort areas in Thailand and Indonesia were wrecked by tidal waves, she noted that a lot of people must have had their vacation plans messed up by this, and how bad this must be for them. I replied that it must be even worse for the people who live in these countries themselves.

Sorry, been cooped up with extended exposure to the family as it's been snowing here all day. Done venting now.

Dumbest Thing Said at Christmas Dinner

One of my foolish drunken cousins announced that she didn't like Don Rumsfeld very much when she was over at the house for Christmas festivities last evening. Literally 30 seconds later, she told me that I "wasted my time" with John Kerry this fall (in fact, I told her, I did nothing for the Kerry campaign). My response was that if she and others had voted Kerry the president, then Rumsfeld wouldn't be back on the job for another term. That shut her up pretty quick and got the political crap out of the way.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

TV Review: "Yule Log" + NBA Hand-Wringing

Just getting to the national papers after the holiday meal here...

If you feel like reading a really odd TV review, check out the NYT piece on the four-hour video of a fireplace that WPIX shows every Christmas morning:

This year the yule log will also be shown in high-definition television on WPIX's digital channel, WPIX-DT (channel 12). The HDTV version provides "a very sharp image of flames," said Ted Faraone, a WPIX spokesman. Parental discretion advised.

Via Today's Papers, which notes the Yule Log is expected to win the time slot's highest rating for the fourth year in a row since it's 2001 revival.

Also in the Xmas Day papers is this WaPo front-pager on the state of the NBA. It contains lots of post-brawl hand-wringing about whether the league has gone too "hip hop" (and whether such concerns are valid or racist hooey). The article features insightful quotes like this:

The NBA "needs control again, because I think the players are now controlling the league," said Mel Davis, a former player and now the executive director of the NBA's Retired Players Association. "I know I'm ultra-conservative, but I'm tired of it. When players get injured now, they sit on the bench looking like they are going to a party or something. All this jewelry on, the earrings, the tattoos. It's crazy. They should sit there with a suit on or get fined."

My grandfather just left a little while ago after dinner, but this reminded me of him shortly thereafter. Mel sounds like a joy to be around, doesn't he?

Another highlight was the stupidity of Antawn Jamison:

In a much edgier NBA, Antawn Jamison, the veteran forward now playing for Washington, questioned his own marketability. He had averaged more than 20 points per game between 1999 and 2003 while with the Golden State Warriors and was unable to make the roster for the league's annual all-star game, while some of his bad-boy peers were selected to play.

"There was one point, during a time when I thought I should have made the all-star team, I was like, 'Maybe I got to be somebody different ... beat a girl up or something to get ratings,'" Jamison said in a recent interview. "And it actually crossed my mind. What else more could I do? I can't do anything else. How am I not getting recognized? Maybe I need to come out and get a [technical foul] or something."

Antawn, here's a hint: you played for freaking Golden State. Putting up 20 a game for them does not make you more deserving of an All-Star spot than the likes of Duncan, Garnett, Nowitzki, Webber--guys who do that for good teams.

There's an easy answer to all of the NBA qualms floating about. Low quality of play is a legit issue, as the Olympics demonstrated. The league needs to work to put out a good product for its own sake, and it's partly the league's own fault for marketing flashy dunks and one-on-one play. But quality always rises to the top, and I think this should work itself out due to the competitive dynamics. Things not related to the quality of play are irrelevant (so long as no one starts a riot, Artest-style, obviously). So-called "fans" whose enjoyment of basketball is lessened by the length of a player's shorts or his tattoos can go to hell.

Boston Archdiocese: "Bah Humbug"

The local news as I ate breakfast this morning was hilarious. The Boston Catholic Archdiocese, which has been squabbling with locals over church closing these past several months, has really outdone itself this time by arresting two people keeping vigil in a church on Christmas Eve (technically Christmas Day, as it was shortly after midnight). The video was excellent too, with a little kid crying and saying how awful the pastor was being to him. There's nothing on that in the Globe but it is mentioned in the Herald:

Before a 4 p.m. Mass, however, the pastor, the Rev. Joseph Slyva, stopped two parishioners from hanging a banner announcing the vigil, and called police himself after trying unsuccessfully to confiscate a petition 14-year-old Brendan Melchiorri was circulating.

"I just can't believe it," the boy told WCVB-TV (Ch. 5), tears streaming down his face. "Why would he be so cruel?"

"The pastor basically manhandled the boy," said Peter Borre, a member of the Council of Parishes.

Hmm, a pastor "manhandling" a boy? Let's move on.

In the spirit that the church has set for the day, I have to go off for the afternoon and watch the Indy-Detroit grudge match followed by Shaquille O'Neal murdering Kobe Bryant, all the while endeavoring to avoid my relatives. For you and yours, I wish a pleasant remainer of this December 25. I may return in the wee hours, unless the dinner gets the best of me.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Warlords Need Not Apply

Today's NYT: "New Cabinet in Afghanistan Includes More Technocrats and Fewer Warlords". Could we perhaps institute a "no warlords" policy for democratic governments we're trying to set up?

Secret Holiday Visit to Iraq!

Um, haven't we seen this before? What's next, Condi Rice dropping in on Tikrit for the Fourth of July? The admin PR people are running out of moves and starting to repeat themselves.

XMas Eve

Maybe I'll blog on the 24th and 25th, maybe not. If not, don't miss Jesse Walker's year-end piece at reason, declaring 2004 The Year of Puppet Sex.

Did Kerry Lose Because of Abortion?

Some Democrats seem to think so.

But Democratic leaders said they were concerned that their candidates - in particular John Kerry - were perceived as morally untroubled about the issue.

Let's go to the third debate:

I believe that I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith.

Maybe that's too abstract a way to frame the issue, but I think the problem is perhaps more rhetorical than substantive. Kerry said essentially the same thing in the second debate when a woman asked him what he would say to an abortion opponent.

Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here, so to speak. That Kerry may have failed to connect with voters with regard to this or that issue does not mean that Democrats need to move to the right. Kerry was just a crappy communicator. There is a way to speak out for abortion rights in a way that can have broader appeal, like the "safe, legal and rare" line from Bill Clinton referenced in the NYT Nagourney piece.

UPDATE: I see the LA Times had a similar article yesterday:

Party leaders say their support for preserving the landmark ruling [Roe v. Wade] will not change. But they are looking at ways to soften the hard line, such as promoting adoption and embracing parental notification requirements for minors and bans on late-term abortions. Their thinking reflects a sense among strategists that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and the party's congressional candidates lost votes because the GOP conveyed a more compelling message on social issues.

To be clear, I support all three of those things mentioned in the article. I don't think carving out reasonable limits to abortions, and providing alternatives, is necessarily inconsistent with choice. Then again, I'm not exactly the most adamantly pro-choice Democrat you'll ever meet.

Note again, though, the concern is that, "the GOP conveyed a more compelling message." Generally, I think it's better to work on conveying the message better before you start changing around your beliefs for political expediency.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Fun with Patdowns

Hey Beavis, we could, like, get jobs with the TSA and cop a feel.

Not any more, though. Gotta love that professional airport security system we've got.

That Shifting Rationale for War

Enduring Friedman quotes Tom Friedman today:

...this is a war between some people in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world who - for the first time ever in their region - are trying to organize an election to choose their own leaders and write their own constitution versus all the forces arrayed against them.

Compare to Tom Friedman, January 12, 2004:

The real reason for this war—which was never stated—was to burst what I would call the "terrorism bubble," which had built up during the 1990s.

This bubble was a dangerous fantasy, believed by way too many people in the Middle East. This bubble said that it was OK to plow airplanes into the World Trade Center, commit suicide in Israeli pizza parlors, praise people who do these things as "martyrs," and donate money to them through religious charities. This bubble had to be burst, and the only way to do it was to go right into the heart of the Arab world and smash something—to let everyone know that we, too, are ready to fight and die to preserve our open society. Yes, I know, it's not very diplomatic—it's not in the rule book—but everyone in the neighborhood got the message: Henceforth, you will be held accountable. Why Iraq, not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan? Because we could—period.

Strange how Bill Clinton gets pilloried for saying he got it on with Lewinsky "because he could" while Friedman can claim we started a war because we could and that's cool.

Anyway, the rhetoric has shifted, huh? Here's Tom on Old Europe:

We may lose because most Europeans, having been made stupid by their own weakness, would rather see America fail in Iraq than lift a finger for free and fair elections there.

Or, just maybe, they don't want to sign on to the war since it's being run so incompetently. Do you think the US would cede any decision-making power to the Europeans if they offered some troops to the effort? I'm guessing not. Without a change in direction, though, this Iraqi campaign is going nowhere. Why should Europeans waste their lives and treasure on an American boondoggle? Friedman should hardly be insulting others for not joining up when he can't even figure out the purpose of the mission.

Also, the Europeans might not want to participate in War Crimes.

It's Not Easy Being Green and Red

A funny LAT front-pager on the increasing stress of being a mall Santa:

Often you answer to three equally demanding bosses — the parent, the mall, the photographer — and one all-powerful overseer, the child, who has come to view Santa as a cross between a birthday party clown and a miracle worker. A hybrid of Bozo and God. ... Maybe all this added pressure isn't the reason a Santa in Atlanta earlier this month knocked a woman cold with a 2-by-4. Maybe it's not why 30 Santas got into a drunken street brawl two weeks ago at a charity fundraiser in Wales. (Five Santas were arrested.)

It pays to get to the last link of Eric Umansky's Today's Papers on Slate.

Nick Kristof vs. Gail Collins

Nick "look how even-handed I am!" Kristof wrote in Wednesday's NYT:

Liberals traditionally were the bleeding hearts, while conservatives regarded foreign aid, in the words of Jesse Helms, as "money down a rat hole." That's changing.

The lead NYT editorial Thursday sees things a bit differently:

And we learned this week that in the last two months, the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping hungry nations become self-sufficient, and it has told charities like Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services that it won't honor earlier promises.

The US is spending 0.14 percent of national income on foreign aid, the lowest of the G-7, despite signing the UN Millennium Declaration that sets a goal of 0.7 percent by 2015.

What precisely Kristof thinks is "changing" is unclear to me.

Political XMas Card of the Year

In the tradition of last year's winner, Dick Cheney, I'll declare Loretta Sanchez the political Christmas card of the year.

Whenever I see or hear anything about Loretta Sanchez, I am reminded of the stink over her plan to hold a fundraiser at the Playboy mansion during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in LA. I was a DNC intern back then, and several of my male colleagues were scheming to try to get to go to that (to no avail, of course, with the event eventually being moved).

This is similarly tacky on her part. And why would you want your stockings to catch fire anyway? There must be something I'm too tired/stupid to understand here.

UPDATE: For those who don't feel like clicking the link and squinting, the text of the Sanchez card:

The stockings were hung
from the chimney with care
in hopes that the fire department
soon would be there

Hope your holidays are smokin'!
Love, Loretta (and some cat name I can't make out)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"Jesus is weeping."

Another unoriginal link (from Atrios), but this one from Bill O'Reilly the other night deserves special attention. Because some people disagree with Bill's thesis about the "jihad" against Christmas, the Fox pundit has declared that Christ himself is now shedding tears. OK then.

Remember, every time you leave a comment critical of my writing at this site, satan sobs down in hell.

A Martha Stewart Christmas

Weird, Martha Stewart has a Christmas message up on her web site (via InstaPundit). She seems to be turning into a prison-reform activist:

I beseech you all to think about these women -- to encourage the American people to ask for reforms, both in sentencing guidelines, in length of incarceration for nonviolent first-time offenders, and for those involved in drug-taking.

Do you get to run a web site from prison? Why aren't there more incarcerated bloggers then? And why is Stewart pictured in a business suit, rather than a prison uniform?

The Sarcasm Point

Why I love Slate. I certainly could use another punctuation mark to let people know when my written words are not to be taken seriously sometimes. Such is the curse of having a bizarre sense of humor.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Note to Self

Next time you're in India, don't film homemade p()rno.

Since the State Department is getting involved, I'm wonder if the "moral values" people are pissed with the Bush admin.

Bush's Secret Plan to Fix Social Security

One might think that a year-end press conference would be a proper forum in which to explain what the heck this administration rumbling about social security privatization is all about. But not if you're George W. Bush, apparently. Instead we get this drivel when someone dares ask Bush what the basic outline of his proposal is:

The principles I laid out in the course of the campaign, and the principles we laid out at the recent economic summit are still the principles I believe in. And that is: nothing will change for those near or on Social Security, payroll tax -- I believe you're the one who asked me about the payroll taxes, if I'm not mistaken -- will not go up.

The -- and I know there's a big definition about what that means.

Well, again, I will repeat, don't bother to ask me.

More is painfully excerpted at length in the full link above.

Now, excuse me, but what the hell?

Brad DeLong: "I guess nobody has told Bush of his Constitutional duty to 'recommend to [the Congress's] Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.'"

Josh Marshall quoting Sam Rosenfeld: "Rather than merely dodge the questions, Bush seemed intent on staking out an explicit, principled position in favor of dodging the question."

Even the WaPo editorial board is not impressed: "He seems determined to stay above the detail and to limit himself to vague statements of principle. Details, however, can make the difference between desirable reform and the sort that compounds the problem."

Just when I think I've seen it all from George W. Bush, he pulls something like this.

Steeler Eyes Are Smiling

Terrell Owens is on the shelf for the year, so Philly is screwed. The NFC will not be breaking its Super Bowl losing streak this season, regardless of whether the Eagles can break through. Thank God we at least will be spared the sight of Andy Reid in tights.

Now, the Patriots just blew a game in the closing minutes for the first time in ages, and really, they aren't winning a championship if they have Earthwind Moreland and Troy Brown trying to make big plays in pass coverage late in games.

The Pats learned this weekend that Tyrone Poole is gone for the season. They desperately need Ty Law back, and how well his broken foot heals may well determine the outcome of the season. I still think they get the bye since they own the tie-breaker over Indy thanks to the opening game, and the Chargers are probably losing at Indy this weekend. Thus the Patriots can lose to the Jets, beat the hapless Niners, and get a bye at 13-3 if that's how it goes. We lasted just under two years without a divisional loss, too bad that's over.

But hey, maybe losing could help scare people a little bit and get them re-focused, who knows.

I'd rather not just rely on Peyton Manning choking in January, since he's better this year, and the Pats' D is looking worse right now. Maybe we'll get a blizzard and things will turn out OK (I have the Colts as the #3 seed, sorry Chargers). Hell, the Colts still had a shot in the 4th quarter of last year's AFC Championship, in spite of the 4 INTs from Manning.

All of this adds up to good news for Pittsburgh. The only way the Steelers can lose the top seed now is by losing both of their games (Baltimore and at Buffalo, neither of which is a gimme) and having the Pats win both of theirs. That's likely not happening, and if Pittsburgh wraps up home field by beating the Ravens Sunday, look for them to rest guys the following Sunday against the Bills. Since Buffalo will still have a shot at playoffs then, this gives them an edge at sneaking into that last wild-card slot.

I love thinking through how all these scenarios cascade down with so many potential consequences (and let's not even get into the NFC playoff picture, sweet Jesus). Even though there's no way that #6 AFC seed is going to the Super Bowl, the fight to get in is just as enjoyable as the playoffs.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Season's Bleatings

Briefly to follow-up on the previous post, while there's consternation over saying "Merry Christmas", we learned this weekend that 27 percent of Americans want to require Muslims to register with the government. But the Christians are the persecuted ones, OK then.

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez has an excellent piece on the passion of the Christians.

Christmas is Ruined!

The whole angry defense of Christmas being waged by right-wing media types these days is pretty crazy (I could link a billion things, which I'll limit to two Jews dutifully writing up this week's talking points and one liberal's expression of befuddlement).

I wonder what the people concerned with the downfall of Deck the Halls might think of the bizarre trend toward celebrating Festivus or the new South Park Christmas special about the birth of the antichrist. After all, these are the same people who can't even deal with their kids listening to Evanescence, sheesh.

Jeff Jarvis, in between diatribes against Juan Cole, has also been doing some grade-A mocking of the Parent's Television Nutjobs lately. Check out their report about references to religion on primetime TV for numerous gems like this, so earnestly catalogued it's semi-disturbing:

On the December 17 episode of That '70s Show, Eric questions Donna, "So, you have to work at the radio station on Christmas Eve? God, it's like it doesn't even respect the sanctity of that holy night. We were going to get drunk and fool around behind the manger scene." (Fox)

I would love to watch the Curb Your Enthusiasm Christmas episode with these people.

But you know what? I enjoy this crap, and yet I celebrate Christmas with the family every year. My dad and I brought the tree in today, I have to do some shopping this week (unfortunately), and I'll even be at church Friday afternoon, missing out on the Vikings-Packers game. We irreligious blue staters do mark the holiday, we just do so in our own way. As far as I know, Santa has never taken a stance on gay marriage.

Also, maybe we should've gotten the flu shot situation squared away so that the old men in santa suits aren't afraid of the snotty little kids on their laps at malls across the country.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Why did Ron Artest leave the game early?

Because he wanted to beat the crowd.

(From Simmons on Friday, I had to post it.)

Time Disses Kerry

"He had the hair, the height and a war hero's gravitas. He ran with a sunshine boy and had Michael Moore and the French behind him."

Is this really the best Time magazine can do to summarize the Kerry campaign?

At least I think Time was onto something in saying that Bush gets the cover "for reframing reality to match his design."

Battle of the Bulger

Howie Carr has a column that I can't read behind a subscription firewall, but I know what it says anyway. "Xmas 11, and he's still naughty" reads the headline on Whitey Bulger's continued avoidance of law enforcement. It's interesting that today the Globe has a Bulger piece too, albeit with a very different emphasis. It seems that fighting terrorism is actually a higher priority. That's no reason to let up on our political enemies, though, right Howie?

I missed the Herald these past few months. Upon my arrival back in Boston Friday, near the airport I spied a Herald on sale with the blaring front-page headline "Killers on the Loose." Some things haven't changed, I see.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Screwing with the Template

The old template was stale and Blogger's got a bunch of new options now, so I've changed. I'll be getting the comments, blogroll, etc., back up in short order.

I am now back in Boston, where I'll be for the duration of the holidays and doing some long-needed maintenance to this space.

Inaugural Tix

You can fill out a form here to try to get tickets to inaugural events, long shot that it might be. Personally, I'm interested in attending the "Youth Concert" at the Armory, hosted by Jenn & Barb, on Tuesday, January 18. If I get lucky on the ticket lottery, I'll be sure to post an account of my adventures in this space next month.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Nationals Emergency

For the sake of throwing in my two pence on the DC baseball stadium hijinks, I'll briefly note that I think this is a bad thing. Matt Yglesias, I think, misses the point. Yes, publicly financed stadiums have screwed over plenty of places in the past. But that was an argument that should have been pressed before the city made a deal with Major Leage Baseball. Allow me to reference Michael Wilbon in yesterday's Post, who makes exactly this point.

Now we learn that Cropp blindsided Anthony Williams with her eleventh-hour amendment to the stadium financing plan (I'm looking forward to the revelation that she was paid off by Peter Angelos). MLB is on the verge of declaring the plan for long-term relocation in DC dead as of the new year, and the leaders of the city are going to look like a bunch of incompetent fools for this.

The only similar situation that comes to mind is Connecticut Governor John Rowland holding a press conference to celebrate how he had wooed the New England Patriots to come play in his state when it looked like plans for a new football venue in Foxboro were dead. Those plans were revived, we have lovely Gillette Stadium today, and John Rowland resigned his job in disgrace last year. Good company the DC leadership is keeping.

I have to admit that I find the surreality of this story appealing in a strange way:

Caps in pink, red and blue and other Nationals merchandise accounted for an above-average take of about $3,000 at City Sports, where customers hedged their bets over whether their haul might someday be valuable.

"I think it's a good souvenir in case the team goes the way of the Edsel," said Brent Miller of Arlington, Va., who bought two hats bearing the team's curly "W" insignia.

This will just be too much of a freak show for me not to crack a smile if Washington becomes the first place I know of to sell merchandise yet lose the team before a game is ever played there. I wrote last month that it might be kind of premature to be selling caps without the ownership situation nailed down.

My transitory amusement from the rare idiocy on display, however, would be outweighed by the disappointment of not having a baseball team nearby following this extended tease. I'm also afraid that the disappointment might be the end for poor old George Michael.

The News From Europe

When I first saw this photo today, I thought John Ashcroft must have gotten a new job in Denmark:

Then I figured out that Copenhagen's Little Mermaid was in a burka as a protest against the EU's plans to discuss membership with Turkey.

There is a gaping divide today between those who see Europe's potential to expand its influence as a force for good in the world, and those who prefer to highlight examples of the continent's small-mindedness. For the former, I link Timothy Garton Ash:

"The wisest use of American strength is to advance freedom," President Bush has said. Yet by overlooking the true dimensions of European power, America is failing to recognize the potential of what could be its greatest ally in the most hopeful project of our time: the advancement of liberty around the world.

For the alternative perspective, see Jonah Goldberg's Townhall column of a few days back: "on the whole the Europeans are determined to believe that America - and all it allegedly represents - is the only thing between it and its rightful place as world leader."

Goldberg claims the "European leftist press bleats its disapproval" at what is going on in Ukraine because of perceived US involvement, never mind citing a source to support this assertion. Ash, meanwhile, tells the story of hearing Viktor Yuschenko "triumphantly declare that Ukraine was a European country" to demonstrators in Kiev.

(Oddly, Ash had a recent stint at the Hoover Institution, according to the footer on the Times piece; I'm guessing his was the minority view on Europe.)

I know, people emphasize what they want to make an argument, but this contrast seemed rather extreme in that it is difficult to fathom both writers are addressing the same sort of issues in the same place.

Qaddafi weighed in against Turkish EU membership in an interview on Italian TV yesterday. Other highlights of the appearance included the Colonel (who for some reason hasn't appointed himself to General) claiming credit for Bush's reelection because he gave up some weapons: "We know that with this withdrawal, we contributed by 50 percent to his electoral campaign." This is a man who also thinks that Israel and Palestine should be one country called "Isratine"--I guess "Palsrael" is the second choice. The Colonel is always good entertainment.

MORE: The US-UK similarity in having high courts strike down detention tactics is also notable--the British even have their own Bernie Kerik these days.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why Japan Needs Its Own Bill O'Reilly

Tonight on the O'Saka Factor, denigrating the flag!:

"Patriotic feelings can't grow by force," he said. Takayuki Tsuchiya, a Tokyo assemblyman, said the new regulation was necessary to counterbalance decades of leftist lectures by teachers, especially members of the Japan Teachers' Union. For decades, he said, the teachers have led a campaign to denigrate the nation's symbols, placing the flag next to toilets.

Gotta love the Japanese, man. They're not all in your face with burning the flag, they just put it up by the toilet to show their feelings.

That's actually a rather fascinating NYT article I linked above on the trend toward compulsory patriotism in Japan. Reminds me of a country I know...

Desperate Celibate Men

Which link makes the church look more desperate to get people in the pews, this one or this one?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Carnival of the Vanities

For once it's actually being hosted by a blog I have read before, The Pryhills. It must be a lot of work hosting the Carnival of the Vanities for any given week, having to read and link up so many freaking submissions, but I guess it generates a nice bit of traffic for you as reward.

Today in Home Ec We're Learning to Make Fake IDs

Jenna Bush, elementary school teacher. These kids will need really good IDs too, being fourth graders, so it's good they've got an expert to guide them. Meanwhile,

The immediate career course for Barbara, a Yale humanities grad, is unknown. In September, a spokeswoman for the twins told the Los Angeles Times that Barbara's plans were "a little nebulous."

The twins are frequently seen at Georgetown bars with a loyal coterie of friends. One friend told us the sisters intend to lease a townhouse in Georgetown, but the White House said it had no information on their future living arrangements.

Not that I should be mocking directionless young people...

Kobe Against the World

While I have a moment, I'll link up a few more goodies (so much interesting to read on the internets, I tell you, it's nice to be doing this again). Not that it's an obscure URL since it's the lead story at ESPN right now, but Frank Hughes has a fascinating look at the Kobe Bryant-Ray Allen feud. Hughes thinks that Allen orchestrated the whole thing for leverage in his contract extension stndoff with Seattle, and the desperate-to-prove-himself Bryant has dutifully taken the bait.

Oh, by the way, the Sonics beat the Lakers by 15 last night to improve to 10-1 at home, with that lone loss coming against the Celtics of all teams on Saturday. The one C's game I've seen this entire season was their TNT appearance Thursday night, a game they lost at the buzzer, of course. I've had to make due reading bits of Internet coverage--have I mentioned I love celticsblog.com, especially for rants like this on the Clippers game the other night? I'm looking for a Bill Simmons column on that one, after yesterday when he did a Pedro column instead.

Back onto something completely different (still need to work on keeping my posts about one subject), ex-sportscaster Keith Olbermann (ah, the transition) had a nice bit on his program I caught last night regarding the presidential medals of freedom/screwing up the Iraq War awards. Once the transcript's up here I may quote it, but the essence of it was that Olbermann referred to one of my favorite books, Joseph Heller's Catch-22. There's an episode in the book where Yossarian drops his bombs over the ocean, and his superior officer tells him he can either court martial him or give him a medal. He gives Yossarian a medal because that's better publicity.

UPDATE: Olbermann's actual words:

And from the White House's point of view on this, there's that wonderful scene in the novel, "Catch-22," where the World War II bombardier Yossarian drops his bombs over the ocean, rather than trying to hit the target. And his commander decides to give a medal on the premise that he can either give him a medal or he can court-martial him. And the medal means better publicity. Is this a milder version of that in play here?

No Joementum in Homeland Security

Too bad, it would've helped all of those Jewish neocon conspiracy theories.

Holy Joe, of course, has become Republicans' favorite Democrat next to "Democrat" Zell Miller. With contributions to the discourse like this, it's no wonder. Even Jeff Jacoby wrote Joe a love letter during the primaries, during which the petty Lieberman went after Howard Dean because he was upset over not getting Gore's endorsement. A petty track record like that makes it hard to see why he didn't fit in with this White House.

Yes, I'm back in the swing of things, trashing Lieberman, Maureen Dowd, and Dan Shaughnessy. Coming up next: a diatribe on how Fox News really isn't fair and balanced! Bear with me, I'm trying to remember how to blog.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Rummy Under Fire

Wow, there might finally be some momentum behind the anti-Rumsfeld chatter. The straw that broke the camel's back? I think it had to be Maureen Dowd's devastating parody on the 12 Days of Christmas in this past Sunday's New York Times, clearly influential journalism at its finest. There's nothing like rearranging the words of a Christmas carol to bring down a political figure.

And Jesus H., did you see this today? Next Rumsfeld will be winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and Sean Hannity will be getting a Pulitzer.

Bruce Allen's dig at Dan Shaughnessy's dis of Pedro was laugh-out-loud material for me earlier today: "I wonder if Dan has a 'Mad Libs' pad of columns he can just fill out at a moments notice." On further reflection, I'm looking forward to seeing if the Yankees throw at Pedro when he comes to bat during the Shea Stadium interleague games this summer. I think Fox might devote a Saturday pregame show to this topic, in fact.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Goodbye, Jeri Curl

Looks like Pedro is heading to the Mets, unbelievably. As if having the Yankees as his daddy weren't enough already, now he'll get to play on a team overshadowed by the Yankees in the same city.

Also please note, one year ago today the big news story was the capture of Saddam Hussein. Today, the big news story is the death sentence of some guy in a sensationalized California murder. Good to see our news media have overcome the distraction of significant world events to get back to its old ways. Even the villified Dan Rather broke into late afternoon programming for the verdict, showing that the networks have been hopelessly swept up in the cable news mania on this.

It's amazing how much more attention the Ukraine elections are getting on the TV now that there's an intriguing poisoning subplot, not that a potential new Cold War was that exciting before. Inside Edition (which Rather interrupted), was even doing a bit on the changing face of poor Viktor Y. (Victory for Viktor Y.! should be the slogan for both campaigns, I tell you.)

While I'm here, back on the Peterson case, what are the Hollywood libruls doing still having a death penalty out there? And what is up with the Petersons having given their unborn child a name already? Aren't you only entitled to be called by a name after you're born? The fascinating thing about the Peterson stuff, which you never hear about explicitly on the cable news, is how this case has probably drawn so much attention precisely because of the pro-life implications from a double-murder conviction in which one victim is an unborn child--again, what gives, California? The Bush campaign, of course, made sure everyone knew about this part of the story in one of their 173 ads attacking John Kerry.

I'll try to get back into the regular blogging toward the end of the week.

UPDATE: Very important, I've replaced "Geri Curl" with the more frequently seen spelling of "Jeri Curl" in the post title. As for my my glosses on more important matters regarding the California legal system and the Ukraine political situation, I'll let those stand.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Not that anyone cares by now, but I'll make this a brief, semi-official hiatus until I hit a real vacation for a couple weeks over Christmas/New Year's. I may check in with some football picks in the interim, just no real blogging.