Saturday, September 30, 2006


Ok. Now this is what I'm talking about. Uhhh, Mike? What are you talking about? I'm getting there; gimme a second. Am I talking about good hitters hitting? Nah. About leads for the bullpen to protect? Not exactly. About Johnny Maine throwing strikes? I wish I was, but I ain't. Yes, that's how you win ballgames and all. I know that. But, far more importantly . . .

David Wright is back. Uhhh, Mike? Wright didn't play last night, you know that, don't you? Oh, ye of little faith, I am certainly aware of that fact. You think there was a chance in hell I'd fail to notice that Willie would throw momentum to the wind and decide to rest both his young stars a mere four days before the post-season began? Puh-leese.

Young Mr. Wright may not have played the game last night, but man-oh-man he played the press like a Stradivarious! Check this out (talking about Pedro):
"He's an emotional leader and a leader off the field . . . . We will come together as a team and pick up the slack."
(Ellipsis in original) The Prince has returned. "Emotional leader." "Leader off the field." "We will come together." "Pick up the slack." Two sentences. Four cliches. Four good ones. And an affirmative statement that the Mets will come together as a team. Now, if only he'd declared he'd start hitting home runs again. But, he's still young, he can't do it all.

And if that fine demonstration of sports cliche facility wasn't enough, please note the ellipsis in the quotation. The editors of this article felt the need to whittle down what Young Mr. Wright actually said. In other words, folks: There Was More.

And he didn't even play. He's back. Beltran hitting. Maine throwing peas. Trachsel nowhere to be seen for two straight days. Mota looking scary. Wagner giving up only one hit. Willie not throwing Heilman in back-to-back games as the post-season beckons. Uncle Cliffy injuring no parts of his body over a 24-hour stretch. Heath Bell eating only 7 slices of pizza for his after-game snack.

The pieces are in place, folks. The worm has turned.

(Or I'm on one of my manic jags. Could be either.)

Let's. Go. Mets.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Ok. Here we go. It's Friday morning, so that means it time for the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day. Only I've been away, so I haven't had the time to think about the ridiculous & wonderful films I saw in that glorious time known as the 70's. So, I'm just going to pick a movie that I vaguely remember seeing, then use it to launch into tangential riffs on other more interesting themes.

Got it? Uhhh, not sure I do either. Anyhow, let's do it, shall we? The film:

Escape To Witch Mountain

I saw it with both my parents at the local movie theatre, and I remember basically liking it. Two kids. Magical powers. Whatever.

Ok. Now, to the real topic: Kim Richards. Ohhhhhhhh, yeah. If you were a boy at any time between 1975 and 1985, you know who Kim was. She starred in a few Disney movies, and seemed to be on TV constantly in the late 70's & early 80's, on various Sunday Night movies and after-school specials. She was also McLean Stevenson's daughter on Hello, Larry, and appeared on Diff'rent Strokes in some episode that explained the apparent connection between Larry and Mr. Drummond and . . . oh, who cares, really?

Anyway, if you don't remember, Kim Richards was a babe. She was pretty, she had extremely long, silky blonde hair, and she had this improbably raspy voice even as a girl. As a young lad, she all-but represented the scope of my pre-adolescent tastes in girls: who you wanted to see at the roller rink, at school, at summer camp.

And then, as if anything more was needed, she suddenly re-appeared in the mid 80's (when my . . . thoughts about the fair sex had gotten a little less, let's say, fair) as James Spader's love interest in the atrocious, but strangely (re)watchable, Tuff Turf.

Yes, Tuff Turf. One of those movies that was constantly on Cinemax & The Movie Channel at odd hours. One of those movies I knew was terrible. One of those movies I watched over and over anyway. One of those movies that had a preposterous plot, but featured a childhood star in . . . a more adult-like role (wink, wink). Like Big Bad Mama II, with Danielle Brisebois, Archie's adopted daughter Stephanie in Archie Bunker's Place, taking a gratuitous dip in a mountain lake with her sisters.

Not that I watched that one over and over.

I don't remember much about Tuff Turf except for Richards looking hot, Spader acting smug (and singing (!) at a cocktail party he & his gang crashed), and some not-very-tough actor playing Richards' tough boyfriend. But I do recall one of the standard-issue sex scenes that all execrable 80's cable flicks featured, though the body we saw was probably that of a body double, not of Kim. Not that I cared at the time, of course.

At any rate, in addition to James Spader, Tuff Turf also featured a young Robert Downey, Jr. And, as far as I'm aware, it was Kim's last movie except for 1990's Escape (which I never saw) and the 12 minute mockumentary, Blair Witch Mountain Project, directed by none other than Ike Eisenmann, Richard's co-star in the original Escape To Witch Mountain.

According to IMDB, Kim's 42 now, and is "contemplating returning to acting now that her youngest child Kimberly is in school." Sounds good to me. Even if she also happens to be Paris & Nicky Hilton's aunt.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


As promised, here's the first in what should be a series of short blurbs about our trip through The South:

I'd been to the South twice before. Now, I'm not including trips to Maryland or time spent on the Western shores of the Potomac. Yeah, technically the Virginia suburbs of DC are south of the Mason-Dixon line. But that would be like someone telling me they've "been to NY" because they visited a friend at SUNY Buffalo, or went to an NCAA Tourney game at the Carrierdome in Syracuse.

Doesn't count.

So, for me, two prior trips: a drink & smoke-filled road trip to Lollapalooza '93 at the Metrolina Fairgrounds outside Charlotte, and a week-long visit to some friends in Asheville in 1991. Or as another friends referred to it, in an e-mail last week: that gosh-darned hippy town, Asheville. Not exactly Stars & Bars; barbeque as a noun, as opposed to a verb; or baptisms in the waters of the Chattahoochie.

So as we drove down interstate 81 through the beatiful Shenandoah Valley, I felt like I'd been there before. The Shenadoah Valley is simply stunning: miles and miles of lush fields, covered in farmland, sprinkled with trees. Impossibly wide, yet just narrow enough to see the mountains on either side. Based on the four times I've driven through it, there's some kind of extra color there. Not just the green of the mountains and the blue of the sky, there's an ochre-color that rises from the land. Words don't do it justice; you'll have to see it for yourself.

That first evening we got as far as Roanoke, VA, a city nestled in the Appalachians, not far from West Virginia. From the highway entering town, the center of the city seems dominated by red brick warehouses sitting along rail lines cutting through the hills. Yet, once you turn off the road, it's clear that for about 10 blocks in either direction, there's a well-developed downtown, complete with office buildings, restaurants, and parking lots. This was the first example of what I'd see in every town went to: it looked just like everywhere else.

The downtown was nice enough, but Roanoke looked just like any other small city in America: cafes, ethnic restaurants, glass office buildings among those of brick, and a "revitalized" downtown in which the oldest, most warehouse-dominated section was replaced with bars, more cafes, Thai restaurants, red-brick sidewalks, funky boutiques, and outdoor seating. Additionally, Roanoke has a small section as one heads out of town which is zoned for only "authentic" looking buildings, most of which housed law offices, doctors, dentists, and other small businesses.

This isn't to say, by the way, that I didn't like the town. In fact, I did. It's actually quite charming, the people were friendly, the businesses seemed to be functional for the local residents, not just potential tourists, and the urban planning made sense. It just surprised me that it was so similar to downtowns in other places I've visted that aren't in the South: Burlington VT, Santa Cruz CA, Portsmouth NH, Ithaca, NY. I like all those places to. And change the accents, change the flavor of the tchatchkas they sell, and you'd never know the difference.

The outskirts of town, too, were the same as everywhere else: malls, shopping centers, McDonalds, Subway, Barnes & Noble, Exxon, medical plazas, Mexican restaurants, Chinese buffets, Holiday Inn Express, sushi joints. You know the drill. Again, I don't hold that against Roanoke: everyone has to shop, has to eat, has to fuel up the car, has to go to the doctor. But somehow I thought there'd be something different about such a place in the South. But it was largely the same.

I say largely, because there was one difference: a lot of political signs. For George Allen mostly, but also for his opponent, as well as for other races. Strangely, none of the signs indicated the candidate's party affiliation. I know Allen is a Republican, but otherwise I couldn't tell. Perhaps everyone is in the GOP there, and such indicators are unnecessary. I don't know.

To be continued.


This sucks.

And I haven't even started talking yet about Pedro. I'm talking about the lineup. Baseball -- with its long season, blah, blah, blah -- is a game of momentum, of ebbs & flows. Guys get hot and make square contact with every pitch for weeks at a time. Other guys get cold and flail ("Pull off" as The Eternal Captain would say), swinging wildly at slop & sliders in the dirt. Good fielding is contagious. So is bad fielding. The boys have been committing a ton of errors lately. Their record since June's World Famous 9-1 Road Trip ended? 51-42.

So what's been going on? Well, here are the September numbers for some key bats:

Beltran: 160/364/280. 2 RBIs.
Wright: 1 home run. This mysterious power blackout extends back to early summer: 7 HRs in 264 ABs since the end of June. Homerun Derby, indeed.
Valentin: 178/238/397
Floyd: 236/283/345. But you know what? Those numbers are about in line with the rest of his season, so no cause for panic there.

You'll note I'm not even bothering to list team-wide hitting stats, because of all the subs that have played since the call-ups/the clincher. No, I'm merely focusing on the mystifying dearth of production from three of the five guys who've carried the Mets amazing hitting attack this year. The fourth & fifth cogs, Reyes & Delgado, haven't burned it up in September, but they've been ok.

If these guys don't start hitting next week, it's gonna be over real fast, no matter who they play.

As to the pitching, I'm not really panicking. The Mets have won this year on the strength of the NL's best hitting (until the last month); with a lot of help from a deep bullpen; a little help from a decent-but-not-great starting rotation made up of Tom Glavine plus journeymen, rookies, and washed-up vets; and a bonus in the form of a 30-16 record in one-run games.

You'll notice that a 20-5/2.38 season from Pedro Martinez isn't part of that formula. They've done it without him this year. Assume he's done for the season at this point. It's insane to think otherwise. Perhaps he wasn't as crazy as we all thought when he broke down in the dugout a few weeks ago. Maybe he knows his own body afterall.

If Glavine/Duque/Maine/Trachs can do their standard 4.50 thing, while the bats roar & Chad-Brad, Mota, Heilman, & Wagner do their usual 3.00 thing, the Mets can win it all. They may not, but they can. But even if the starters pitch to the best of their ability and submit a 3.75 or so performance, the Mets will still lose (in round one) if the big bats don't get on track.

I know it's unfair, but at moments like this someone has to right the ship himself. Show the guys that he's gonna get them back where they belong. I'm not sure he can do it (for crissakes, he's only 23), but I wanna see David Wright come out tonight and bash two homers, drive in 5, give the Mets an early lead. I wanna see an error-free game. I wanna see line-drives, regardless of whether they're caught or not.

We see those things, and the momentum may return. We could be two days from those 3 run first innings we got used to. But if those things don't happen, and happen real soon?

There's enough panic & negativity flying through the atmosphere. I won't add to it. 4-0 from here on out.


Here's a blurb from the N.Y. Post's take on Keith Olbermann's reaction when he discovered an envelope containing white powder in his mail (H/T The Cunning Realist):
MSNBC loudmouth Keith Olbermann flipped out when he opened his home mail yesterday. The acerbic host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out. A note inside warned Olbermann, who's a frequent critic of President Bush's policies, that it was payback for some of his on-air shtick.
(Emphasis added). What "interests" me here isn't the horrible attempt at cheap laughs or the gossipy tone. Afterall, it's Page Six. Instead, I'm drawn to the fact that someone who criticizes the President is therefore deemed an acerbic loudmouth engaging in shtick.

Page Six or not, you'd hope the press/media would stick together.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


As you can tell from the post below, I'm back. And distraught! When I left, the Mets were 90-55, poised to clinch the division, cruise towards 105 wins, wreck the psyches of the other NL teams, and force baseball historians to add a new chapter to their "Greatest Teams Ever" books.

Instead I find a 93-64 team, now third in the NL in runs scored, limping into the post-season in the midst of a massive power slump. 3-9 against the Pirates, Marlins, Nats and Braves?! Unless I'm mistaken, none of those teams are over .500. I know they're playing out the string, getting rested, prepping for the second season. But prepping for getting shutout isn't the prescription!

But I'm gonna be optimistic. I'm hopeful. And . . . I'm an egotist. The Mets have slumped for one reason, and one reason only: I was away. The players called a team meeting after reading my last post a week-and-a-half ago, and decided collectively to suck 'til I got back:
Beltran: If Mike away, I no play.
Reyes: Although I will pad my SB numbers, I refuse to hit triples or homers.
Trachsel: I will put my "Suck No More" strategy on hold until Mike returns.
Wright: We're just going to have to take it one day at a time until our guide and mentor returns. You know, playing professional sports is a full time occupation requiring balance and patience. The long season has a leveling effect . . .
'Stache: Willie won't let me groom my moustache in his office until Mike gets back.
Uncle Cliffy: The 2006 season started?
But like Eddie Felson said in Color of Money, "I'm Back."

So, if I can be excused for quoting that film rather than The Hustler (as well as for abandoning the team and all its fans), let me declare once and for all: it's all gonna be ok. 4-1 from here on out. October awaits.


Like MacArthur to the Philippines, The Terminator to the police station, or America to its senses (ok, I'm an optimist), I have returned to The Neighborhood. It'll take me a day to get back into the normal groove of life, catch up on the news, recapture my writing mojo, all that sort of stuff. So nothing new or important to report on.

But, noting that I plan (key word: Plan) to post one piece a day for the next week or so on a particular element of the trip, allow me to briefly chat about our journey. Yes, we sojourned into the heart of our culture, the very roots of much that screams "America": The South. We spent time in, or at least drove through Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

To repeat, for those of you not all that familiar with me and mine: this New York Jew and his Korean wife spent a week-and-a half driving through Dixie. To find that with the exception of the accents, the weather, and the omnipresence of Jesus Christ, there ain't all that much difference between the North and the South. Metaphorically speaking, the distance from Manhattan to Long Island (or New Jersey) is greater than the distance from Long Island to the outskirts of Atlanta, or Charlotte, or Richmond, or Columbia.

And you know what? I think that disappearing distinction between regions is rather sad. If you're willing to go off the beaten track, to try to meet the people, there are differences: in food, in music, in attitude, in the pace of life. But the world of highway-suburb-shopping center-gas station-fast food outlet employed with Mexican immigrants is all but identical in every corner of the America I've seen over the last half decade or so. California, New York, Washington DC, Texas, the Southeast: if you're not observant as to license plates, topography, small businesses, radio content, number of churches, etc., you won't see any real difference between one region and the next.

Anyhow, enough of that for today. As said, I hope (key word: Hope) to write one short entry a day about some impression of the regions, towns & cities we saw: Roanoke, Richmond & Charlottesville VA; Bristol TN; Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill & Fayetteville NC; Greenville & Columbia SC; and Atlanta. A lot of Villes, huh?

Oh, and lest you think I didn't find (and enjoy) some of those distinctions I sought, let me dissuade you from that opinion with three words: Bluegrass, Barbeque, Blondes.

(Not that I "enjoyed" any blondes, per se. Afterall, I was with Mrs. Mike. But you know what I'm saying).

Friday, September 15, 2006


Ok, here we are. My last Friday posting for a week or so; heading out of town for a spell. (I'll try occasionally to post from the road if I can, but that depends on factors I can't control, like availability of computers and my sobriety.) So, with absolutely no further ado, may I present for your lunch-gobbling pleasure, the fourth entry in the ill-conceived, awkwardly-titled, dubiously-popular, and always frivolously-presented . . . Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day:

Car Wash

As to any plot summary, I'm gonna keep it even shorter and simpler than usual: 1976. Black guys run an urban car wash. Comedy ensues. That's all you need to know. You're thinking 1976, black guys at a car wash, that means afros and funky music and wild boots with heels and snappy, insult-filled dialogue. I will do nothing to dissuade you of that opinion.

As with nearly every silly movie I saw between 1975 and 1980, I went with the old man. Anyhow, he'd been talking to me for a while about The Longest Yard, and how funny the final football scene was (yes, he was in his late 30s at the time, and I was 8. But that's a different story for a different day). So, one evening in the fall of 1976, we went to The Arcadian movie house in Ossining, NY, to see a re-showing of The Longest Yard, which had come out 2 years earlier.

Now, to really date myself (as if this pre-cable TV era, go-to-the-movie-theater-to-see-a-film-that-was-already-released-two-years-earlier thing hasn't done so already), in addition to the cartoons, the trailers, and the short, this was a double feature.

For those of you reading this who are under the age of 30, yes you read that correctly: for the price of one ticket, you always got cartoons -- good ones, like Bugs or the Road Runner -- and a short -- often a documentary. In 1978, when I saw Animal House, the short was a documentary on Lynyrd Skynyrd.

And, a certain percentage of the time, there was a double feature, meaning just what it sounds like: two full-length features for the price of one. And if that hasn't thrown you enough, remember that the theater was not divided into multiplexes, the popcorn had real melted butter, everyone over the age of 16 was smoking like a chimney right in their seats, and Burt Reynolds was still considered cool. Not ironically cool, like in Boogie Nights, or like Travolta in Pulp Fiction, but the number one guys-want-to-be-him & chicks-want-to-be-with-him star in the game.

So, you see? A double feature ain't that weird afterall, right?

So we got to the theater, Car Wash came on before The Longest Yard, and it was a helluva Friday night for an eight year-old kid. Needless to say, I loved both movies. As always, I remember nearly nothing about Car Wash except that it was funny as hell.

Oh, and the song: Workin' at the car wash . . . whoa-oh-whoa-oh-whoa-oh-whoaaaaa . . . workin' at the car wash, yeah.

Check out this cast: George Carlin, Professor Irwin Corey, Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody, Roy Sheider's wife in Jaws).

Wait a second. You're wondering what I'm wondering, right? You said this was about a black car wash. These are all . . . white folks (or for that 70s verisimilitude, honkies). Ok, here you go:

Antonio Fargas (better known as "Huggy Bear"), Bill Duke (the dude who shot up the whole forest with that wacky, hand-held gatling gun in Predator), Ivan Dixon (the black Seargent in Hogan's Heroes -- I always love Hogan's Heroes for that kind of thing: the US Army was still segregated in WWII, but on TV in the mid-60s, the Nazi POW camp was not!), DeWayne Jessie (Otis Day, of Otis Day & the Knights), The Pointer Sisters, Garrett Morris, Otis Sistrunk (or this link if you're not sure who he is), and if I recall correctly a memorable appearence by Richard Pryor.

Now that's a cast! I assume Nipsy Russell was unavailable because he was on Match Game or the $20,000 Pyramid that day.

Finally, as always I'll leave you with a few choice quotations from the movie:

[Duane has just thrown Irwin's book into a bucket of water]
Lindy: I'm so tired of you running off at your mouth it's getting me down honey. Why don't you just leave? And be an assassin? Or is the only thing you're good at shooting off is your big mouth?
Duane: Will you please get out of my face you sorry looking faggot.
Lindy: Who you calling sorry looking?
[Everybody laughs]
Duane: Can't ya'll see she aint funny?
[Laughter stops]
Duane: She's just another poor example of how the system is destroying our men.
Lindy: Honey, I'm more man than you'll ever be and more woman than you'll ever get.

That cast, that dialogue, that music. Need I say more?


Ok, so here we are. Magic number is 1. Considering the Pirates' awful record and the Phillies mediocrity, it's quite likely the Mets clinch tonight. And if not tonight, then this weekend.


And may I announce that we are leaving tomorrow for a little jaunt around undisclosed regions of this fine nation of ours. Car trip in fall. Good stuff. And . . . we'll be back in time for all post-season festivities, about which I fully plan to post early, often, and obnoxiously. You can expect a venting of all my Met Fan neuroses, fears, anxieties, etc. In other words, if they win, fun, fun, fun for the whole family. If they {inaudible} then it'll be self-flagellation, maudlin whining, and other things inappropriate for a man of my age, marital status, and over-inflated sense of self-importance.

So, in other words, this is my Last Mets Post vefore they're crowned champ-eens of the NL East. That'd be that division the Braves have controlled as their personal fiefdom since George Bush Sr. was President. And the Mets haven't won the division since 1988, when Ronald Reagan was President. In September of 1988:
1. I was 20 years old.
2. Jose Reyes and David Wright were 5.
3. Julio Franco was 56.
4. Willie Randolph was in his last season as Yankee second baseman, finishing up a miserable campaign that saw him bat 230/322/300.
5. Jose Canseco was about to win the MVP on the strength of what seemed at the time to be huge numbers: 307/391/569.
6. The name Mike Scoscia didn't mean anything special to Met fans.
7. I had just bought my first CD player 9 months earlier, I didn't know anyone who owned a cellphone (nor would I have understood why anyone would want one), & the idea of a personal computer linked to servers all over the world was preposterous.
8. The Colorado Rockies were a defunct hockey franchise that had moved and called itself the New Jersey Devils, and the Florida Marlins sounded like a joke name for Dan Marino's football team.
9. Tom Glavine was a major league starter. (Wait, that's not a good example, is it?)
10. The Eternal Captain was the on-field Captain. And his hair was exactly the same color it is today.
So, by the time I get back from my vacation, the Mets'll be NL East Champions. I hope Willie uses the next two weeks wisely, resting his guys, setting the rotation, keeping the bullpen guys fresh, but not rusty. Over the next 17 games, I'd love to see Beltran, Reyes, Wright, Delgado, Valentin & LoDuca miss at least 3-5 games each. That'll also give some extra at-bats to Chavez, Floyd, Green, and Milledge, to get them sharpened up.

And while I hope he sticks to a tough pitch count, I want to see full rotation work for Pedro, Glavine & El Duque. They've gotta be ready, fully ready, in two-and-a-half weeks.

Wow. Meaningful, post-season baseball. Coming up. My preview when I return.


As you may have heard, comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, creator of Ali G, has caused a diplomatic row between Kazakhstan and . . . well, just about everyone with a sense of humor, an understanding of irony, and an appreciation for what does and does not matter in this modern world of ours. The Daily Mail reported Tuesday that a representative of the Kazakh government was scheduled to meet with George Bush in the Oval Office to discuss the implications of the broad insults of Kazakhstan leveled by Baron's "Borat" character.

If you've seen Da Ali G show, you know who Borat is. If you haven't, well remedy that. Now.

Anyhow, seems that Cohen's new film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan, contains lines and images offensive to that delicate Kazakh sensibility. For example, according to the Daily Mail piece, "The opening scene . . . shows Borat lustily kissing his sister goodbye and setting off for America in a car pulled by a horse."

I'm there.

Cohen, speaking in character, actually responded to the Kazakh government's complaints by saying:
"In response to Mr. Ashykbayev's comments, I'd like to state I have no connection with Mr. Cohen and fully support my Government's decision to sue this Jew. Since the 2003 Tuleyakiv reforms, Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world. Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hats, and age of consent has been raised to eight years old."
Seems clear to me that Borat, as well as the Kazakh diplomat, should be invited to the Oval Office for the meeting. Imagine the possibilities.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Continuing with today's theme of Republicans disavowing the asshole they rallied behind six years ago (or two years ago in many cases), I'd like to share a few choice excerpts from an excellent piece by Chris Buckley.

(Yes. He's Bill's son.)

Washington Monthly asked a few prominent Republican/Conservative pundits if they'd write articles explaining why they hope the GOP loses in November. Along with Buckley, six other notables such as Joe Scarborough responded, but from what I've read I'm most impressed with Buckley. Highlights:
* With heavy heart, as a once-proud—indeed, staunch— Republican, I here admit, behind enemy lines, to the guilty hope that my party loses; on both occasions. I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. In 2004, I could not bring myself to pull the same lever again.
* There were some of us who scratched our heads in 2000 when we first heard the phrase 'compassionate conservative.' It had a cobbled-together, tautological, dare I say, Rovian aroma to it . . . Six years later, the White House uses the phrase about as much as it does “Mission Accomplished.” Six years of record deficits and profligate expansion of entitlement programs. Incompetent expansion, at that: The actual cost of the President’s Medicare drug benefit turned out, within months of being enacted, to be roughly one-third more than the stated price. Weren’t Republicans supposed to be the ones who were good at accounting? All those years on Wall Street calculating CEO compensation. Who knew, in 2000, that 'compassionate conservatism' meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief? Who knew, in 2000, that the only bill the president would veto, six years later, would be one on funding stem-cell research?
* On Capitol Hill, a Republican Senate and House are now distinguished by—or perhaps even synonymous with—earmarks, the K Street Project, Randy Cunningham (bandit, 12 o’clock high!), Sen. Ted Stevens’s $250-million Bridge to Nowhere, Jack Abramoff (Who? Never heard of him), and a Senate Majority Leader who declared, after conducting his own medical evaluation via videotape, that he knew every bit as much about the medical condition of Terry Schiavo as her own doctors and husband. Who knew that conservatism means barging into someone’s hospital room like Dr. Frankenstein with defibrillator paddles?
* The Republican Party I grew up into . . . did not always live up to its ideals . . . A self-proclaimed 'conservative,' Nixon kept the Great Society entitlement beast fat and happy and brought in wage and price controls. Reagan funked Social Security reform in 1983 and raised (lesser) taxes three times. He vowed to balance the budget, and drove the deficit to historic highs by failing to rein in government spending. Someone called it 'Voodoo economics.' You could Google it. There were foreign misadventures, terrible ones: Vietnam (the ’69-’75 chapters), Beirut, Iran-Contra, the Saddam Hussein tilt. But there were compensating triumphs: Eisenhower’s refusal to bail out France in Indochina in 1954, Nixon’s China opening, the Cold War victory.
* Today one has no sense, aside from a slight lowering of the swagger-mometer, that the president or the Republican Congress is in the least bit chastened by their debacles. George Tenet’s WMD 'slam-dunk,' Vice President Cheney’s 'we will be greeted as liberators,' Don Rumsfeld’s avidity to promulgate a minimalist military doctrine, together with the tidy theories of a group who call themselves 'neo-conservative' (not one of whom, to my knowledge, has ever worn a military uniform), have thus far: de-stabilized the Middle East; alienated the world community from the United States; empowered North Korea, Iran, and Syria; unleashed sectarian carnage in Iraq among tribes who have been cutting each others’ throats for over a thousand years; cost the lives of 2,600 Americans, and the limbs, eyes, organs, spinal cords of another 15,000—with no end in sight.
And there's more. Check it out.

The point, of course, is not that he's right with what he believes, or that anyone should be moved by his "help us win back our Republican party" cry. No. It's just great -- as an American -- to see that no matter what the reasons, there are some who are able to look this grotesque masquerade of government in the eye and say, publicly, "This is bullshit and I can't support it."

That's about all you can ask for, and frankly all I want. So I'm gonna follow the Wolf's warning to Vince, Jules & Jimmy in Pulp Fiction and stay off my knees for the time being. But it's a start.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


The Adminstration is once again proving its commitment to torture. And like so many corrupt & rotten regimes from decades & centuries past, an obsession with a small-minded, ill-conceived goal may just lead to its ruin. Couldn't happen to a nicer buncha' guys.

AP is reporting on the battle brewing between the White House and Congressional Republicans over the issue of "tough CIA interrogations." According to the article, the Administration's plan "would narrow the U.S. legal interpretation of the standards for treatment, a move that would allow tough interrogations of terror suspects and shield U.S. personnel from being prosecuted for war crimes." Incredibly, John Warner (R-VA), along with other GOP Senators, is hammering out an alternative plan, after a number of former military officers and defense officials wrote to Warner urging him not to allow any modifications in the language of the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3. A sentence from the letter:

"If degradation, humiliation, physical and mental brutalization of prisoners is decriminalized or considered permissible under a restrictive interpretation of Common Article 3, we will forfeit all credible objections should such barbaric practices be inflicted upon American prisoners."
I'd like to see the argument hinge more on the pure, moral outrage, not just on the "but it'll happen to our guys now" argument, but a start's a start. A few choice quotations from the article sum up the issue for me. First, the Administration arranged a conference call with members of the national press, allowing National Intelligence Director John Negroponte (pictured above) to flap his gums:

"If this draft legislation were passed in its present form, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency has told me that he did not believe that the (interrogation) program could go forward."
Well that's straight out of the Administration's handbook: any amendments to the Bush plan, and we can't interrogate properly (read: we can't torture anyone). This is just a variation on the standard, "Do it our way or you'll all DIE!!!"

Then later on in the article the author mentions that:

The dispute echoed last year's showdown between Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., over legislation banning cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees. The White House threatened to veto that proposal, contending the language would hamstring interrogators, but eventually bowed to overwhelming congressional support for McCain's measure.
And there you have it. Bush threatened to veto. Bush contended that the language would hamstring interrogators. But he eventually bowed to overwhelming Congressional support.

Typical bully. He blusters and he swells his chest and he threatens. But when someone strong stands up to him and says "No," he slinks away like the abject coward he is.

The Administration's gonna lose this one. Which is a victory for everyone else.


According to this story from AP, "two men are donating kidneys to each other's wives in a four-way surgical swap" today in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

I guess this is what they mean when they say you have to keep upping the ante once you delve into new things.


In today's entry from the "Well, If He's Saying So, It Must Be True" Files, we learn from AP that the President and CEO of Saudi-Arabia's state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. ("Aramco") insists that only 18% of the world's total supply of crude oil has been tapped.

Now there are others in the world who know far more than I do about the science behind Peak Oil theory, as devised by Marion King Hubbert in 1956: Matthew Simmons seems especially credible to me. Also Jim Kunstler & Mike Ruppert, though both allow their personal politics to flavor their analyses in my opinion. Agree or disagree with these fellows, they know more about the issue than I do.

At any rate, color me skeptical when I hear the head of Aramco just come up with a random number, explaining the amount of oil left in the ground. One of Simmons's most compelling points is that those seeking to debunk Peak Oil often say, "It's not true," and then spout forth with numbers, seemingly coming out of nowhere. Or from the same place as the untapped crude.

Finally, if this dude is so certain that the oil's in the ground, why is he begging "explorationists" to find it? I mean, if he knows it's there, why haven't they started drilling for it? Afterall, his product is crude oil. When was the last time you heard a car maker beg the world's "engineers" to keep making autos?


In today's entry for "Actual Yahoo! News Headline of the Day," I present you with the following, straight from an article by the "AP Education Writer":
High School Dropouts Earn Far Less Money
Even though this is one o' them "book larnin'" stories, I won't get pedantic on your asses and rail about the incorrect grammar in a sentence using the comparator "less" without offering the other side of the equation. You know, "less money than . . . high school graduates." Or "less money than . . . drug dealers." Or "less money than . . . the 'AP Education Writer.'"

Oops, I just railed, didn't I?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


AP reports that gunmen tried -- but failed -- to storm the American embassy in Damascus, Syria today.

I know nothing about this story, have no insights into its validity, its actual import, its role in global strategy. No idea.

But two things I know for sure:

1. The Administration will use this in its favor.
2. The press will faithfully regurgitate every syllable that comes out of Tony Snow's or Bush's mouth, with no analysis, skepticism, challenging, or questioning.

Wait, what's that? Do I hear drums beating?


As you probably know, Bush addressed the nation last night, cynically leveraging the grief from a dark day five years ago into another call of support. Afterall, midterm elections are but a month-and-a-half away. And you know what that means, don't you? Of course, another mysterious rhetorical re-appearence of big, bad, Osama bin Laden. He and Bush sho' do have a rocky relationship, don't they? Like a drunk & horny college student who limits things to late-night booty calls (over the entire duration of their four years at school), Bush knows bin Laden's his go-to "piece" any time a rough stretch hits.

Check this out. Tell me if you see a pattern (all emphases added):

September 17, 2001:
"We're going to find those evildoers, those barbaric people who attacked our country, and we're going to hold them accountable. We're going to hold the people who house them accountable. The people who think they can provide them safe havens will be held accountable. The people who feed them will be held accountable . . . I want justice. And there's an old poster out West… I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'"
November 6, 2001 (addressing Eastern European leaders in Poland, later home to one of the key members of the "Coalition of the Willing):
"Like the fascists and totalitarians before them, the Taliban regime, the al Qaeda and other terrorists try and impose their radical views through threats and violence. [Al Qaeda is] seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons."
March 14, 2002 (discussing a Pentagon plan to turn its attention to "Rogue States" that may possess nuclear weapons):
"We haven't heard from [Osama bin Laden] in a long time. I truly am not that concerned about him . . . I was concerned about him when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban. We shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore."
October 30, 2004 (that would be a few days before the last Presidential Election for those of you scoring at home):
The United States should do "whatevever it takes" to hunt down bin Laden and members of his al-Qaeda network.
December 31, 2004 (less than one month before the first Iraqi elections):
"[Osama bin Laden's] vision of the world is where people don't participate in democracy. His vision of the world is one in which there is no freedom of expression, freedom of religion and/or freedom of conscience. And that vision stands in stark contrast to the vision of, by far, the vast majority of Iraqis."
January 26, 2006 (after speaking to the National Security Agency before addressing the Senate on the wire-tapping brouhaha):
"When [Osama Bin Laden] says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it. I take it seriously, and the people of NSA take it seriously."
March 6, 2006 (addressing a crowd in Afghanistan after a "surprise" stop):

"I am confident [Osama bin Laden] will be brought to justice. What's happening is that we've got U.S. forces on the hunt for not only bin Laden but anybody who plots and plans with bin Laden. It's not a matter of if they are captured and brought to justice, but when they're captured and brought to justice."

September 11, 2006:
"Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding. Our message to them is clear: No matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice."
His relationship with the truth is twice as shaky as the one he's got with Osama. He's an international playa'.

As disgusting as this makes Bush look, I have to ask one question: how can any member of the mainstream American media, any "serious journalist" look in the mirror and feel anything but utter disgust at the visage staring back?

Monday, September 11, 2006


Five years. A lot's happened in those years, more than I can reasonably talk about. I think I'll just post a segment of a larger piece I wrote last summer:

I wish I could say what I thought about when I went to bed that night. But I can't. I don't remember. I'd just gotten back from a week in California, and my internal clock was messed up. I slept most of the day on the 10th, though I don't recall what I did that night, other than go to bed early, jet lag hiding in every corner of my body. Maybe I watched Baseball Tonight to see if Bonds homered. Maybe I surfed the web, trying to avoid the surmise about Gary Condit and the intern. Maybe I thought about the diplomatic fallout from the US plane that landed in China earlier that summer. Maybe I wondered how W would work that one out. But really, I don't remember. I suppose I forgot a lot of things.

I remember waking up.

Mid-morning, lazing in bed, half-sleeping, falling back into a snooze. I had a vague sense the phone rang that morning. Maybe twice. Putting on my glasses -- 10:50 AM -- I went into the living room to hear my sister-in-law's warbling on the answering machine. In Korean. I called out to the bedroom, "It's your sister again." She'd been calling incessantly. From Korea -- the long-awaited trip to my wife's family, friends, & homeland was set for Monday the 17th. Two-and-a-half weeks observing the formalities, bowing & addressing parents, siblings, friends, what-not. These daily calls were a preview. Where do you want to stay? Should we arrange to go here? Can Mike do that? Will he undertstand this? Ugghhh, what could it possibly be this time?

My wife wandered in from the bedroom and listened to two messages, both from her sister. Apparently query number one related to whether we wanted to go to Cheju Island, an island off the south coast.

"Just tell her we'll figure it out when we get -- ?"

"Shhh, I can't hear," she waved at me, trying to listen carefully to the next message. "She sounds serious. Something about an accident . . . check the TV."

An accident! On television! Her sister was so anxious she was now checking New York traffic reports, wondering if the jack-knifed trailer on the Long Island Expressway affected our journey to Cheju Island. I turned on the TV as I did every morning, and switched to NY1, a local, all-news station on Channel One. Weather, subways service changes, traffic reports.

Where I was greeted by a sight I'll never forget. And I sort of half sat down, half fell back onto the couch. My wife looked at me and at the TV. "Oh . . ."

The site lines of NY1's shot were the same as every other morning: looking downtown from the top of the Empire State Building. Only this morning, there were no Twin Towers at the end of Manhattan. They just weren't there. I actually blinked, like one of those "dramatic" double-takes in a movie, trying to re-focus. I wasn't even frightened yet, it just made no sense. And I read the graphics on the screen:

"Twin Towers Collapse After Being Hit By Planes."

Again, I tried to focus, to digest. Eventually, something stuck in my head: The Twin Towers were gone. No thought of people yet, of those who died, only a brief realization that an iconic piece of my New York, the weight that balanced the downtown side of the skyline, wasn't there. That part hit me immediately: a conspicuous testiment to skill & ambition, a citation in Western Civilization's chapter on architecture & engineering. Gone.

And the realization of deaths still hadn't hit. I was still stuck on this "plane bringing down two buildings" thing. After-all, the B-25 that hit the Empire State Building in 1945 caused serious damage, but no collapse. I re-read the on-screen graphic and then the final letter caught me: The "s" in "planes." Planes.

I shuddered, picturing dozens of kamikaze F-16s piloted by anti-government McVie types, smashing into the towers, maximum payload, huge explosions. Then, they pulled me out of the fog: the video. And again. Over & over again. That haunting scene of a royal blue, United Airlines 767 streaking through a stunning, blue-skied Manhattan morning & disappearing into the South Tower, only to re-emerge in a fire-ball on the other side. As the North Tower leaned next to it, also aflame.

And somehow, that's when it hit me: The People. On the planes. In the buildings! Oh my, tens of thousands of people in there . . . were in there.

Both towers had collapsed over an hour earlier. And five miles away, I'd slept through the whole thing, informed of events from someone living 7,000 miles away. Welcome to our brave new world.

A little later we headed out towards a hospital to donate blood, walking past hordes of shuffling migrants, treading north, away from the danger. The sounds of fighter planes zooming overhead cut through the silence. The unbearable silence. The streets were crowded, the sidewalk bars, cafes & restaurants full, as everyone had left work. The weather was sublime. And a palpable excitement, or more accurately, a nervousness, floating through the air. After-all, no one knew when the next plane was gonna hit. But, nonetheless, very quiet.

And we were walking to a triage center where the victims never arrived, to give blood even though no one would need it. Already the first "Missing" signs started going up on lamposts & phone booths. Homemade signs -- first of hope, later of desperation, finally of mourning -- were up in the first few hours, destined to stay well into November. Markers, plaques, gravestones of those we'd lost. Family members, friends, lovers. Unspeakable loss, grief, writ large for all to share. We all needed to share. Our citizens. Our buildings. Our New York was hurt. She was hit, visibly so. She was wounded.

We all mourned, some more than others, and my respects to them. And thus began my habit of looking at every sign, trying to garner a sense of life from that piece of paper recognizing the presense of death. Seeing if I knew anyone who'd perished, reading carefully, hoping not to find anyone I knew, but also wondering if I would.

I never did, and I'm glad for that. But I know what we lost that morning. I missed it then, and I miss it now. And I know it's not coming back.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Well, it's Friday. Which means that a short week is over, a short weekend is upon us, and most importantly, it's time for the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day (or FSMOMYOFTD, as Thrillhous has dubbed it). We've done Thank God It's Friday, we've done Gus. What could possibly be worthy of a follow-up?

Not sure anything qualifies, but goddamn it, I'm gonna try. So, with no further ado, without fanfare, without a red carpet, without so much as a ratty rug on the floor of a '73 Nova, I present to you, for your coffee-supping enjoyment, the always ridiculous, the always redundantly-named, but always entertaining, Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth of The Day for today:

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry

As described under "plot" on the IMDB page:
Mary and Larry are two lovers who, with Larry's ace mechanic, kidnap the daughter of a grocery story owner, and make off with the ransom. They are chased over hill, over vale by the cops, who deploy everything from 426 Hemis to helicopters to stop Larry's Dodge Charger.
That's about it. And what, may I ask, could possibly be wrong with that? Send yourself back to 1975, about a year after the movie came out. I was 7 years old, and like most kids I rode my bike everywhere. I lived on a block with a huge number of young children. It was the era of Evel Knievel, of ludicrous spectacle on Wild World of Sports: jumping over buses, jumping over fountains, jumping over the Snake River Canyon in a rocket.

I had an Evel Knievel lunchbox. And that should just about set the scene, right?

Ok. So what were we doing every day on our bikes? Jumping over stuff, of course. Jumping our bikes over other bikes, over blankets serving as bodies of water, over dogs, over my friend John's sister Sharon, over garbage pails. Jumping, jumping, jumping. We were usually Evel Knievel himself, and that suited us just fine.

But one day, this "older" kid Mark, who must've been about 11 came to ride and jump with us. Mark, looking back, must've been a little . . . uhhhh, let's say, slow, and also a bit rough. I can say I hated playing football with him because . . . well because he always fucked me up. Anyhow, Mark did crazier jumps than the rest of us, and he kept saying, over & over again, "Crazy Larry. Look at me, I'm Crazy Larry." Occasionally, because I guess it was the 70's and all, he'd call someone else "Dirty Mary."

Needless to say, the next day we weren't Evel Knievel anymore.

Now, jump to 1976, a random Sunday night, and what should be on the Sunday Night Movie (it's the time before cable for all you youngsters out there)? You got it: "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry." I can actually remember begging, pleading, with my mother to let me stay up and watch the whole movie. Actually trying to explain to her that when we were little (all 9 month earlier), we used to "play" Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. I won her over, and stayed up to watch the whole thing.

And I loved it. Absolutely loved it. How could I not?: Souped-up Dodge Charger. Car chases galore. Pretty blonde girl riding shotgun. Helicopters. The guy from the Bad News Bears playing a mean cop.

What's that you say? Who played the mean cop? Why, none other than de riguer Hollywood tough guy, Vic Morrow. And the rest of the cast?

Peter Fonda, still playing post-Easy Rider roles. Susan George, continuing to leverage her "hot, blonde chick thing" she started 3 years earlier in Straw Dogs. Adam Rourke. No, I have no idea who he is, but he deserves notice for appearing in one of the All-Time Skinamax flicks, The Beach Girls. If you were a guy in high school during the early-to-mid 80's, you know that one.

And, uncredited, but appearing nonetheless: Roddy McDowell.

I have no idea. It's too long ago to remember, I couldn't even guess what he was doing there. An ape on the lam? A stodgy Brit to balance the redneck flavor (like a car-chase version of English Bob?). A random vampire hunter (c'mon, you know what I'm talking about. Could that be an entry in a future FSMOMYOTD?).

Finally, to leave you smiling, or snickering, of whatever s-ing you'd like as the weekend beckons, here's a snippet of dialogue from this cinematic gem:

Larry: Hey, Deke, it turns out Dingleberry here's a joke after all.
Mary: [quoting book] "The murderer, is not unaccountable for his own murder. And the robbed should not be blameless for being robbed. For it is the cornerstone of the temple, that is no higher than the lowest stone in its foundation."
Larry: Now, don't start speaking in puns to me woman.
Mary: That is from a book, bozo! And, if you'd read once in a while, perhaps you'd know what I'm talking about!
Larry: Oh, books, Europe, Lear Jets, Sam Baker, shoplifting... you're pathetic!
Mary: Oh, I am, am I? Do you know what you are? A case of eye and hand co-ordination, and you're really not very good at that!

And there you have it. All we needed was Mary calling him "turkey," and we'd have been set.


The Mets keep rolling on. 35 games over .500. Magic Number down to 7. Season series taken from the Braves. I. Am. Loving. This.

Of course, unless they win 11 games in October -- not 10, not 9, but 11 -- the whole thing'll be moot in my eyes and I'll probably kill myself. But that's then, this is now, and all is good in Metsville at the moment. A few Random Thoughts, if I may, and you're all free to enjoy your weekend:

Oliver Perez: Joins John Maine & Alay Soler as the three Mets to toss complete game shutouts this year.

Yeah, that sentence is utterly preposterous. That's why I led off with it. And speaking of leading off . . .

Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose: Can't say it enough times. Just can't. I don't know what to say here. Despite being straight, despite being hitched for 7 years, despite knowing from experience that a spouse is the last thing I need any more of, I'm nonetheless gonna ask Reyes to marry me.

Any objections?

I mean, really. I assume by now you either saw his 3-run inside the park home run last night, and if you haven't, stop reading, get off this blog, and remedy that situation now. That may be one of the most scintillating, if not the most scintillating, things I've ever seen in a baseball game. As soon as the ball went over that sorry-ass excuse for a center fielder's head, I thought, "Triple, baby."

But then Gary started saying, "They may wave him home. He'll make it easily," or something like that. And sure enough, there was Reyes flying -- and I mean flying -- around third, sliding headfirst just to piss Willie off, as the crowd went bonkers. Bonkers!

You watch the replay, and the way he turned on the jets just before he hit second base was phenomenal.

Oh, and for those of you scoring at home: 301/353/499 with 113 R & 74 RBI through the Mets first 139 games. The countdown: 3 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 2 HRs, 5 BBs & 4 SBs to reach 30/20/20/50/60 in those five categories.

The Beltranator: 3 runs more than Reyes has. In 6 fewer games. 142 fewer plate appearences. Just saying.

Shawn Green: Still Jewish. And yeah, I like that. Can't help it. Sue me (but remember, like every Jew not named Shawn Green, I'm a lawyer, so at your own trepidation, please).

Said By No One On The Mets, As Of Yet: "No one gives us any respect. No one gives us a chance." This would be a first in the modern sports era. Still time for this one.

Uncle Cliffy: Not sure what to say here. Not looking good for him.

Mota, Heilman, Wagner: I'm not actually gonna say it. I don't wanna jinx us, or anything. But you know what I'm talking about. This could be the key next month.

Shhhhhhh. I said nothing. You read nothing. Never heard it, got it?

Magic Number: 7

Heh, heh.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Admissions of "secret," overseas prisons; worrisome economic news; an Administration accusing one-and-all of anti-Americanism. But fear not, my fellow Americans! Your Congress is on the job:
Moved by appeals to protect the noble horse, the U.S. House (of Representatives) voted on Thursday to ban the slaughter of horses for food, potentially saving 90,000 animals a year from being served as a delicacy to diners overseas.
That's right, according to Reuters, "Lawmakers passed the bill 263-146 over the opposition of farm and meat industry groups as well as the U.S. Agriculture Department." We're all gonna be ok now. Osama bin who? Who cares, at least Trigger's safe.

Here with a selection of actual quotations, made by actual members of Congress, as written up in the Reuter's piece:
Kentucky Democrat Ed Whitfield: "Horses have never been part of the food chain. Horses are not like cattle."
Kentucky Democrats wondering where your elected officials were these past two years as the Administration rode roughshod over your Constitution, ask no more! And New York Democrats, put your pride away. It's happening here too:
Bill sponsor John Sweeney, New York Democrat: "This is a piece of legislation that is long overdue."
Lest you Republicans think your Washington favorites are immune to the horsemeat as pork provisions, re-read those numbers and weep: 263. Ain't that many Dems in the House.

But finally, because you had to know it was coming, the most predictable of all forms of propagandistic appeals to the heart, when the brain knows it's being peddled a stinking pile:
West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall, attacking those who opposed the legislation: "The concept is repugnant to most Americans. Explain this to your children."
Elected officials do nothing while the Chief Executive eviscerates the Constitution, and sends the nation hurtling towards bankruptcy. But at least they're thinking of the children.
Update -- 10:11 PM, EDT: As pointed out by commenter "JP," NY Congressman John Sweeney is, indeed, a Republican. I relayed incorrect information given in the article I linked to, but it's on me when the facts are wrong.

My bad. Apologies. And thanks to JP.


According to an AP-Ipsos poll, three out of five "Southern women" plan to vote Democrat in November, primarily as a reflection of dissatisfaction over Administration/GOP policy, notably the ongoing War in Iraq. As expressed by Barbara Knight, 66, "a self-described Republican since birth and the mother of three":
I think history will show him to be the worst president since Ulysses S. Grant. He's been an embarrassment. I'm going to go for the moderate, and these days that tends to be Democrats.
Lest anyone doubt her Dixie bona fides, note the choice of Grant (as opposed to the usual Yankee examples, Buchanon or Pierce or Hoover) as worst President ever. I'm guessing that Reconstruction, and not the famous series of scandals, places him in that spot.

Sandy Rubin, a high school teacher in Macon, GA, says she voted for Bush in 2004, but plans to vote Democrat this year. She says "the GOP's focus on issues that appeal to social conservatives, such as gay marriage and abortion, have turned her off." She added:

I care about job security and education. The things I hear the Republicans emphasizing in their campaigns are not things that affect me or my family.
But, before you imagine a map of the South painted blue, rather than red (or adorned in Stars & Bars), please read what substitute teacher Clydeen Tomanio told reporters "at a watermelon festival in Chickamauga, in the mountains of northwest Georgia," as she explained why she "remains committed to the party she's called home for 43 years":
There are some people, and I'm one of them, that believe George Bush was placed where he is by the Lord. I don't care how he governs, I will support him. I'm a Republican through and through.
Oh well.


From the "Distractions From What Really Matters: Not Just For Americans Anymore" Files, we learn from BBC News that the US's number one ally in the so-called "War Against Terror" will waste valuable time & resources in 2007 to conduct an inquest into the death of Princess Diana.

Hmmm. I have the answer already: her car smashed into a concrete pylon at excessive speed. She died. Ten years ago. Ok, next question.

I'm not British, so I'll acknowledge I have no dog in this fight, but I'm not sure what's more ridiculous: A country that has a freaking Queen, with a son who's a Prince, who's dead wife was known as "The People's Princess." Or . . . the sorry spectacle of that very same country, currently embroiled in a resource-wasting, diplomatically disastrous "War" against whatever it is we're all fighting against, conducting a very public, state-sponsored investigation into the death of that "People's Princess," when everyone on earth -- even the enemies in that so-called "War" -- know exactly how & why she died.

(Of course, my laughs at the UK's Monarchs & Aristocrats are slightly tempered by the realization of who sits in the Oval Office, what his last name is, and pondering his qualifications for office. Back to the story, shall we?)

And if you need more more cheap snickers, I'm here to supply you with them: Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss has been appointed "Deputy Coroner of the Queen's Household and Assistant Coroner for Surrey."

Yes, I'll confirm what you may be asking. My calendar says "2006" too.

The War on Terror, and a stupid citizenry? Am I the only one seeing a relationship here?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Wow. I knew this year's run-up to Election Day would see more cynicism than Machiavelli could've dreamed up, and more dirty tricks than an unwashed magician, but this is beyond my scope of belief:
President Bush on Wednesday acknowledged for the first time that the CIA runs secret prisons overseas and said tough interrogation forced terrorist leaders to reveal plots to attack the United States and its allies.
Not only is the Administration not hiding this from the electorate, but it's bragging about it. Look what Bush said:

This program has been, and remains, one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists. Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland.

In other words: Yes, we tortured. We violated the Geneva Convention, we violated human codes of conduct. We acted in a way that makes us the same as every other despicable regime. But if we hadn't, you'd have DIED!!!

Just to make sure, of course, that no one thinks the Administration is doing anything to cause Americans shame, Bush also explained that:

I cannot describe the specific methods used — I think you understand why. If I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe and lawful and necessary. I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it.

Except that he has. And he will. But otherwise, everything he said is true.

* * *

Just note -- over the next two months -- the Administration's curious combination of Dishonesty & Vulgar Displays of Power. Simultaneous dissembling alongside demonstrations of unchallengeable control. "We can do whatever we want," the message usually goes. "But don't worry, we're not doing anything bad, and we won't. But remember, we could if we wanted to. And you'll be in great danger if we don't. But we won't, because we don't have to. But if we want to, we will . . ."

And on & on it goes. The Lies define reality in the way they see fit. The Demonstrations of Power remind everyone of the consequences of too much questioning.

Two months we won't soon forget. Even if many of our fellow citizens will.


According to the AP Economics Writer, "productivity of American workers slowed in the spring while wage pressures increased."

Bullshit. Pure, unadulterated bullshit. Let's look closer at the language in the article itself, to see how the government & the media try to hoodwink us day-after-day:
The Labor Department said that productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, increased at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in the April-June quarter.
So, just one paragraph after telling us that productivity "slowed," we discover that it didn't "slow," but actually increased. Then, moving along, the article tells us that:
Wages registered a second sizable increase, rising at an annual rate of 4.9 percent in the second quarter, up from an initial estimate of a 4.2 percent increase — good news for workers, but the kind of development that leads the Federal Reserve Board and economists to worry about inflation.
This is not good news for workers. That "rise" in wages is purely a reflection of inflation, of a devalued dollar: the result of an increase in the supply of money & credit. Money & credit from the Federal Reserve & other central banks, as well as liberal lending policies of major banks, domestically & abroad. Plus, the notion that the Fed is "worried about inflation" is farcical, as it has as much of a role as any entity in the creation of the inflationary environment. Later on in the piece, the writer says:
While rising wages and benefits help workers, economists see the combination of slowing productivity and rising wage costs as a recipe for unwanted inflationary pressures.
Again, the concerns are correct, but the implied cause & effect are all wrong. "Inflationary pressures" will undercut any wage gains for workers, that much is true. But the idea that the Fed is worried about this is outrageous; the Fed helped engineer it. Then, halfway through the article, we come to the real issue, the real concern of the "economists" & the Fed:

The sharp jump in labor costs raised worries on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve may not be finished boosting interest rates to fight inflation. The Dow Jones industrial average was down by more than 30 points in mid-morning trading. Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight, said that rising wage costs at a time of slowing productivity would put policymakers at the Federal Reserve "in a very tough spot." But other economists saw an upside to the jump in wages, saying it would help consumers keep spending in the face of rising energy costs, higher interest rates and a cooling housing market. "If households are bringing home larger paychecks, then consumer spending can hold up in the face of ugly headwinds," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital.

Wall Street worries that the rate hikes may not be finished. In other words, Wall Street wants more inflation, wants more money & credit . . . so it can come to them. And other "economists" see good in this inflation, because it means consumers will "keep spending." The never ending mantra: spend, spend, spend. Spend what you have! Spend what you don't have! Go into debt!

Comsumers see "ugly headwinds," in the form of economic troubles, and they decide to save, to budget, to keep tabs. But the Fed and the "economists" . . . and the media, do everything in their power to get those consumers to act against their own interests.

And, to reiterate the same old line one more time, near the end of the article, the writer says:
Strong growth in output allows businesses to pay their workers more without having to raise the cost of their products, which fuels inflation.
And, if you will, let me reiterate my line one more time: Bullshit. Wages go up because of inflation, not the other way around.


In the latest update from the "My Fear Trumps Your Rights, Canadian Version" Files, CBC News reports that an Hasidic Jewish man was asked to leave an Air Canada flight from Montreal-to-New York last Friday. His crime? According to witnesses and airline spokespeople:
A flight attendant approached the man and told him his praying was making other passengers nervous.
The list of scary passengers grows: Muslims, Iraqi-American men wearing t-shirts with Arabic lettering, Hasidic Jews in prayer, dynamite-carrying frat boys.

(Wait, my bad. The "TNT Kid" didn't get into trouble til after the plane landed.)

Do I hear a bid for excessively tall, blond Mormons with shiny teeth from Provo? Black people praising Jesus a bit too loudly? Pregnant women speaking Mexican? Crying, bratty children? I'm sure they all frighten someone.

I know I'm absolutely terrified when I see a really fat guy come onto the plane. I mean, what if I have to sit next to him for 5 hours? Can I just tell the flight attendant I'm scared, and ask that he be removed? When and where does this end?

Or does it?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


The Cunning Realist has an excellent new post up, dealing with what he calls Consequences. The consequences of all our decisions, of our collective actions, over the past few years:
We've entered an overarching period of "consequences" -- political, economic, social, and geopolitical. In a global economy, one basic truism is that there's no permanent free lunch; the money to fight wars has to come from somewhere, and irresponsible, politically expedient monetary policy creates bubbles that eventually pop. Since politicians (particularly incompetent ones who shun the work actual governing entails) despise consequences, they need reliable trump cards to play when necessary. The nightmare of every elected official -- especially at the national level -- is a crisis or general malaise with no one to blame and nothing to distract the public; the Carter presidency was the template. Loosely-defined, ever-expanding wars do nicely in that regard, because they serve as covers for the inexorable effects of failed policy.
Read the whole piece. It's not too long, and it goes into a few more details.


In advance of a speech Bush will give later today, the White House has used our tax dollars to publish its new "National Strategy For Combating Terrorism." Any resemblence to shameless electioneering as the midterm elections approach is completely coincidental.

A few highlights, if I may, separated by category:

Category 1 -- You are in Grave Danger. Extraordinarily Grave Danger. Only the Administration & its Partners in Congress can save your endangered ass:
"The war on terror will be a long war."

"America is safer but we are not yet safe."

"There will continue to be challenges ahead, but along with our partners, we will attack terrorism and its ideology and bring hope and freedom to the people of the world."

"This is how we will win the war on terror."

"While we have substantially improved our air, land, sea and border security, our Homeland is not immune from attack."

"While the United States government and its partners have thwarted many attacks, we have not been able to prevent them all. Terrorists have struck in many places throughout the world, from Bali to Beslan to Baghdad."
That last one's rather melodic, actually. Has a showtune ring to it: TER-rorists have struck/in maaaaany places/through-OUT the world/from Bali to Beslan to Badgad/yeah!

Category 2 -- Al Qaida is the Enemy . . . sort of. The True Enemy is whoever we say it is:
"The United States and our partners continue to pursue a significantly degraded but still dangerous al-Qaida network."

"Terrorist networks today are more dispersed and less centralized. They are more reliant on smaller cells inspired by a common ideology and less directed by a central command structure."

"We have deprived al-Qaida of safe haven in Afghanistan and helped a democratic government rise in its place."

"Yet the enemy we face today in the war on terror is not the same enemy we faced on Sept. 11. Our effective counterterrorist efforts in part have forced the terrorists to evolve and modify their ways of doing business."
"Ways of doing business." Yeah, I saw that too. Nope, not sure what it means exactly. But coming from our business-friendly Administration, it sure does sound funny.

Category 3 -- We have no fucking idea what's going on in Iraq. It's a total mess. But trust us, because as we said in Category 1, "Only the Administration & its Partners in Congress can save your endangered ass":
"A multinational coalition joined by the Iraqis is aggressively prosecuting the war against the terrorists in Iraq."

"The ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry."

"[Terrorism] is not simply a result of hostility to U.S. policy in Iraq."

"The United States was attacked on September 11 and many years earlier, well before we toppled the Saddam Hussein regime. Moreover, countries that did not participate in coalition efforts in Iraq have not been spared from terror attacks."
I think we could alternately name Category 3, "Really Outlandish Propaganda Statements."

* * *

The Democrats responded to the Adminstration's salvo by declaring that, "Years of failed Republican policies have made America less safe and less able to effectively fight terrorism, and Democrats are ready to take this country in a new direction."

We're ready, fellas. We Are Ready. Any . . . uhhhh, specifics? Any precise critiques of GOP policies? C'mon, clock's ticking.

Finally, according to AP, Tony Snow addressed questions regarding calls to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by announcing "It's not going to happen. Creating Don Rumsfeld as a bogeyman may make for good politics but would make for very lousy strategy at this time."

"'Bogeymen,' 'Good Politics,' & 'Lousy Strategy.'" Sounds like a six word summation of the last 5 years.


That's right. Sick. Sicker than the proverbial dog. Home from work. Sipping hot tea. Bundling up one minute to fight off the chills, then stripping down the next as I sweat out the fever.

Fun stuff for everyone.

So I reserve the right to disclaim everything I write today. Of course, if anything I say is good, well-received, or granted awards, I reserve the right to take full credit.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Apparently, celebrity goofball/wildlife daredevil Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin died yesterday after being "lashed in the chest" by a stingray.

Somehow I'm guessing no animals are crying over the news.


For an explanation of what the hell this is all about, check out this post over at If I Ran The Zoo. I'm not sure I can explain it, so let Tom hook you up. On to today's picture, posted at Flickr by "Rbeforee," on July 8, 2005, under "img_6074":

So, you see son, there are times in life when a man stands at the mountain top, looking out, wondering what he's put on this earth to accomplish. And then there are other moments when--

Yeah pop, that's great, can I go now & eat some of that clover we passed on the way up.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


AP reports that "Iraqi and coalition forces have arrested the second most senior figure in al-Qaida in Iraq."

How many "second most senior figures" does al-Qaida have? Haven't we filled both a prison & a graveyard with al-Qaida's "second most senior figures" by now?

Far be it for me to suggest anything, but how's about we try to nail that, uhhhh, number one fellow? You know, the one Bush says is "irrelevant" to him.

Assuming of course, that we actually want to get him. Or that he's alive to get. Just sayin' . . .


Just a few brief thoughts on the Mets, and their journey of destruction through the National League:

1. Beltran's Bruise: Yes, bruise, or so I read today. "Contusion." "X-rays negative."


Ok, now I can say it: What a catch!

2. Wrighting the Ship: Uh-huh. Over his last 7 games: 12-for-23, with 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 2 SB, 0 CS, 6 Runs scored. Oh, and 14 RBI. 522/577/957.

Yeah, I know he did this in Citizens Bank, Coors, and Minutemaid, but you take what you can get.

(And by the way, Citizens Bank, Coors, and Minutemaid??? What is this, a shopping list? Mom's description of her morning chores? Welcome to Major League Baseball, Version 0.6!)

3. My Maine Man: 51 K, 19 BB in 68 IP. That's what you wanna see.

12 HRs is a lot, but this whole staff gives up the long ball. I'm serious: 152 HR in 1213+ IP. Duque: 12 in 85 1/3. Trachs: 23 in 146 1/3. Pedro: 17 in 122. Only Glavine, with 20 HRs in 165 2/3 keeps the ball in the yard at all.

But Maine manages to keep baserunner off (1.03 WHIP), so the damange is mitigated. Color me a big fan at this point.

4. Endy "My Favorite Met" Chavez: 312/351/446. I feel safe in saying that no one predicted this (and Omar is with us in the "no ones"). Did we predict 9 outfield assists in a half season's work? Probably not. But Gold Glove fielding we expected. Clutch hitting? Why not? Anyone can knock out 364/443/485 with RISP. Unlikely, but even Rey Ordonez drove in 60 in 1999.

But an OPS of nearly 800 in early September, with over 300 plate appearences? No way. This is how good teams have great seasons.

5. Aaron Heilman: He's back, and it's been a huge help, especially since Sanchez went out. In 20 games since July 25, Heilman's had an ERA of 2.25, with a 0.95 WHIP. Since August 5? 1.29/0.71 with 16 K & 4 BB in 14 IP.

He seems to be coming in, throwing heat, getting ahead, working fast, effective 8th innings, getting the lead to Wagner without much ado.

And this leads me to the final thought:

6. The Mets Are That Team, The One The Other Fans Are Scared Of: Think of it this way. Since 1988, the Mets have often been the September spoiler, looking to jack up personal stats against whatever contender comes into town on one of those cool, early autumn evenings. 1991-1996; 2002-2004. That's 9 out of 18 seasons. And the other 9 (1989-1990; 1997-2001; 2005), they were the team struggling to win every game down the stretch, trying desperately to stay in the hunt, to scrap it out for the wildcard, or in '89 & '90, to stay in the divisional hunt.

But either way, it was always the damn Braves, or the Cards, or the Astros, or the other team that got us speaking in hushed tones, trying to rationalize how the Mets could possibly take 2-of-3 from the juggernaut.

Guess what, folks. The Mets are that team now. And the last two games against the 'Stros showed it. Houston needed the wins. The fans have been tense, hanging on every pitch. Garner's pinch hitting for his starter in the 4th inning. Every player is bearing down in every at-bat. Guys like Biggio and Tavarez are reaching for something extra. They're putting together good at-bats. The crowd's urging them on.

And despite a shaky outing from Glavine, despite Pedro on the DL, despite a 16 1/2 game lead and a serious lack of urgency . . . the Mets still took both games! After beating the Rocks in Coors, and the Phils in Citizen Bank, and the Cards in Shea . . . and on-and-on. All those teams needed the wins, yet the Mets vanquished them.

If your team was fighting for a playoff birth, and had just taken the lead in the game, how would you feel coming back from the commercial break with this ugly reality staring you down?: that to maintain the lead, your boys had to get through Reyes-LoDuca-Beltran-Delgado-Wright-Green-Valentin-Chavez.

No, I wouldn't like it too much either. But that's exactly what the Astros faced in the 5th inning Friday night.

And that Astro lead lasted for exactly one out in that 5th inning. That's why these Mets are the team that scares their opponents, and their opponents fans.

I love it. And I can't wait for October.