Monday, July 31, 2006


In yet another disturbing sign that the housing bubble -- the bubble upon which America's "recovery" has balanced for 5 years -- is popping, AP's "business writer" reports on a glut of over-priced, and un-bought, condos in Philadelphia.

Lest we think this ugly development is isolated in Philly, note that the article also mentions Miami, Boston, San Diego, Las Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, Orlando, Washington, D.C., and Manhattan as other "areas at risk."

Anyhow, not much to say here that you haven't read before (here & elsewhere). But remember this, and remember it especially in November: with the artificially low interest rates we've had until recently, the American people have been using their mortgages (1st, 2nd, 3rd?) to facilitate the concept we know as "The Home As ATM." Borrowing, borrowing, borrowing against one's home, a home often backed with no equity, has been the standard MO. And that very money has formed the backbone of the Consumer Economy that ostensibly makes our nation go.

And if that ATM closes (just as the value of the dollar keeps falling through inflation)? Do the math. But here's a hint: not sure 2007's gonna be a banner year for Home Depot; HGTV; Target; or Bed, Bath & Beyond.


No time or inclination this morning for a full-on, tome's-length Met post, but after a humiliating sweep of the hideous Braves -- at The Ted! -- I feel as if I'd be something less than a true Met fan not to post at least a little something's worth of my overweening glee.

Or something like that.

So, with no further ado, let's jump straight into a few random thoughts, til we meet again:

1. MVP! MVP? Like the emotionless & rampaging cyborg he was contructed to be, The Beltranator continues to destroy all that stands in his path. He's basically a line-drive smashing, bases loaded clearing, crooked number creating, Braves pitcher humiliating (8 homers so far!), Met fan salivating monster. In the "Pure Power" department, other than late 80's Darryl, '00 Piazza, and maybe Wright last August, I'm not sure when I ever saw such a one man wrecking crew. I fully expect a homer from him every at-bat.

And I plan to lustily boo him if he fails in that regard. 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, 3 SBs and 4 runs scored? I'm booing. I want taters!

But seriously (with all apologies to the crime fighting duo we know as the Prince of New York and El Rapido, we know who the Met MVP is), as great as he's been, he's not the NL MVP at this point. Even with Beltran's 7 extra games (for 31 extra plate appearences), superior baserunning, far more value in the field, a ballpark disadvantage, & the league-leading RBI total . . . Phat Albert's the NL MVP. It takes a lot to overcome Beltran's advantages of 8 runs, 7 RBIs, 7 2Bs and 10 SBs.

And Pujols brings them: 1 extra 3B, 1 extra HR, and 36 fewer batting outs. Beltran's been dominating. Just great. And in my opinion, he's just not quite in Pujols territory, because he requires far more outs to put up his numbers. But as you can see, he's probably the clear number two guy in the league. Amazing.

Tommy Strikezone: He's not in the zone. I don't wanna pile on, I really hope he turns it around, and I don't know exactly what to say. But this ain't working right now. He's been a BP pitcher for a couple months now, and his post-all star break numbers aren't even acceptable: 21 2/3 IP, 30 H, 12 BB, 9 K, 3 HR. 6.65/1.94. And, as if we need to see it as worse than it looks . . . he's yielded 3 unearned runs in those 4 starts, meaning he's been giving up nearly 8 runs per 9 IP since the break.

Glavine's 40 years old and hasn't had a great season in quite a few years now. The Mets need 6 innings of 3 runs or less from him come October. This is a requirement. Just like Pedro got his suspicious one month vacation, it's time for Tommy to have his. Free Pelfrey? How's about Lock Up Tommy. Enjoy your August, big guy, you earned it. See ya after Labor Day.

Fucking Yanks: Abreu and Cory Lidle for 3 retarded dwarfs and a rusty bicycle chain. I hate Steinbrenner. Bastard.

And, yes, that is unbridled envy. What do want me to say? With a pitching staff giving up runs by the bushel every other start, I'm thinking a .425 OBP guy and a serviceable arm might have been nice. More runs on one side of the ledger, less on the other. That's the idea of the game, right?

Cliff Floyd Has Missed 30 Games: No point to make. Just felt I needed to point that out.

Delgado is Hitting Again: Hey, we're fair & balanced here.

Endy & 'Stache: Just because I wanted to smile a liiiiiiiitle bit more. No, it's not a dream. The Mets -- the first place Mets, leading the NL in runs -- are receiving excellent contributions from Jose Valentin & Endy Chavez.

No idea either. Let's not even talk about it too much.

Eli Marrero Is Holding A Met Roster Spot: Bears mentioning, no?

And finally . . .

A SWEEP of the Braves at the Ted. Heh, heh.


Greetings from the Northwest corner of Queens, New York, home of immigrants, full-power from the generators of Consolidated Edison, and of course, Urban America's Favorite Backyard Garden. Yes, that's correct, with the power back on full-throttle & a conspicuous lack of both torrential thunder storms and hellacious heatwaves, it was a fine week in that little patch of soil we call our own (or at least that we rent).

Following a week during which none of the representatives of any major gardening periodicals was able to show up -- due to a healthy desire to avoid those parts of NYC lingering, if only temporarily, in the 19th Century -- the parade of worshippers resumed. And I'm proud to say that after a summer of hard work, we finally passed The Gardens of Versailles, now trailing only the Jardins du Luxembourg for the title of World's Greatest Garden.

I'm cautiously optimistic.

The arugula, red lettuce & green lettuce having finished their brief life cycle, my wife got around to laying some spinach seeds, which germinated quickly. The shoots are already well above the soil, though you wouldn't know if it was spinach or a weed from looking at it. But spinach it is, it's growing nicely, and I'm thinking we make like Popeye by Labor Day. Mmmm.

The tomatoes are doing well, with both plants now producing fruit, and the two pepper plants are just that at this point: plants that produce peppers, by the bushel (that was a pun; "plants" meaning . . . plant, like a factory, but in this case a plant that produces pla-- ohhh, never mind). If picked while still green, they have a clean, slighty bitter taste, with a bit of a kick. But when left to ripen, the red ones are fiery: Strong, with a real smokiness. And too damn hot for this fella's tongue to eat whole. But chopped up, sliced, diced or with the ribs & seeds removed, they make for a powerful cooking ingredient. I'm psyched.

Finally, the coleus & dusty miller I planted way too late in the season as seed a few months ago are mature enough to transfer to pots, or as ornaments in some of the flower pots we have on the deck (the pics in those two links are general species pics; our specimens are, of course, far more beautiful & intelligent than those in the photos; c'mon!). I'd hoped to use them as "trim," as adornment to the annuals in the flower bed, but alas they never got large enough to survive the rain and invading cats & squirrels of that more "natural" environment. So it's in pots near the home for them this summer. But next year? Seed earlier I guess.

The rest of the annuals are looking good. The combo of regular but modest watering, fertilizer before planting, and mulch to keep in moisture & reduce weeds worked well this year. It's been a far more successful summer on the flower front than last, despite having more plants, comprised of more species.

So that's the report from an obviously pleased, (very) amateur gardener. Back next week with another update. I'm hoping it'll be as positive as this, but nature can throw a wicked curve, so we'll see.

By the way, no one would ever guess this, but Blogger's giving me a hard time this morning uploading pictures. So this week's picture -- from the far reaches of our Northern Fields -- is gonna have to wait. If the situation improves, I'll update this post with a pic later in the day. If not, you'll get it next week (Blogger permitting).


Update: August 1, 2006, 7:43 AM: As promised, I'm adding the picture of our North Field now that Blogger is working again. I have no idea who those people walking around in our garden are, by the way. I told my wife to shoot trespassers when I'm out, but she's such a softy. I'll have to speak to her about this.

Friday, July 28, 2006


According to the Commerce Department's official statistics, the economy slowed down greatly during the second quarter . . . while inflation "heated up."

If the government -- which exaggerates, spins, and outright lies about the economy -- is reporting this, you can only guess how bad it really is, or will be. Actually, you don't have to guess. Just ask yourself a few basic questions:
Gotten a raise lately? Confident you could change jobs successfully? If you run your own business, how's it been doing? How's your real estate value looking? Investments doing well? Confident about your savings? Handling your debt?
Ok. Now move on to these:
Paying more or less for fuel? For food? For clothing? Taken many vacations lately? Working more or less for your salary? More or less in debt that two years ago? If no debt, how's your "nest egg" compared to then?
Read the signs. They're clear. And act accordingly, because the economic future isn't pretty.


A.P.'s "religion writer" reports on the latest crisis in the Catholic Church: the increased financial burden to care for retiring nuns. The piece dwells mostly on the economic issues involved in this retirement dilemma (I'm wondering, does nun retirement extend for eternity, or merely life on earth?), but the author also notes that, "between 1965 and 2005, [nun] numbers plummeted from 179,954 to 68,634 . . . [and] far fewer younger novices being recruited, the majority of sisters are now more than 70 years old."

Far fewer novices? Ahhhh, so it's a recruiting crisis, eh? Well, if the Church is so inclined, I have a few suggestions for them:
1. Break A Bad Habit: That's right, Benny 16 and The Boys gotta tap the fabulous fashion sense that . . . men of their kind are so famous for. This is 2006! Teenage girls are not joining any organization that wears drab, baggy, black, white & grey clothing. Just ain't happening.

I'm recommending schoolgirl skirts, belly shirts, knee-high stockings, and shiny black shoes. Hell, I'm assuming Catholic school boys fantacize about their schoolgirl classmates and the nuns. So this kills two birds with one stone: more nuns, and increased interest in the church from the young boys. Hell, with young, foxy nuns, they may even join the priesthood in greater numbers.

2. Show Them The Money: Do nuns even get paid? I suggest ditching this "financial situation" regarding the retiring nuns, and start throwing the big bucks at the recruits: $75,000/yr, with a car, a swank apartment, and a monthly stipend to buy the updated uniforms, plus a decent share of cross-themed bling. What 18 year-old girl's turning that down? Maybe even a credit card in Jesus' name. Why not? The church doesn't pay taxes; I'm sure it's somehow able to declare insolvency and avoid its debts despite the updated bankrupcty laws.

3. Vatican II . . . Who Cares About The Jew? The few folks I know who went to Catholic school pre-1963 have charming stories of the nuns' "lessons" regarding the horned & tailed Jew, killing Christian babies, making matzoh from their blood, killing Christ, all the good stuff. Nothing bonds your rank-and-file gentiles better than the opportunity to fuck with the Jews, baby! Recruiting will go through the roof if only Benny 16 & The Boys do the right thing and repeal Vatican II.

4. Flex-Time: A lifetime of celibacy seems a bit extreme. I have no personal insight into the matter, but after eight years of monogamy I've got an idea. So . . . let the nuns do half-the-year-in-the-convent, and half-the-year . . . on a "mission," out in the field (playing the field?), you might say. Plenty of women I've known swear off men for months at a time after the end of a relationship anyway, so I'm guessing they'll adjust to this just fine.

5. Break Up The Monopoly! And what monopoly is this of which I speak? That which gives priests unshared access to the altar-boys! Teenage girls like pretty-boy 16 year-olds almost as much as gay men, right? Well, think of this as a recruiting tactic. Not only a Britney-esque outfit, but special, "after-church time" with the young lads, kneeling on the steps, eating the host, all that symbolic shit that gets young people so hot-and-bothered.

6. Incentives: Based on conversations through the years with friends who went to Catholic school, I get the strong impression that "The Bad-Ass Nun" is a relic of the past. Back in the 70's, my friends were scared shitless: nuns hitting them, screaming at them, nailing them with rulers, promising eternal damnation left and right. And now? Corporal punishment eliminated, more touchy-feeling teaching, no stories of burning in hell.

What girl's gonna give up a life of independence and freedom without the guaranteed opportunity to beat the living shit out of obnoxious boys? Bring traditional nunning back, and I'm thinking the Church recovers the lost "Tomboy Faction" in a matter of months.

And finally, if all else fails . . .

7. Kidnapping: International prostitution rings kidnap thousands of teenage girls every year from all over the globe. Yet the Catholic church continues to fall behind. By joining this phenomenon, it increases the ranks of the novitiate, saves girls from a far-worse fate, and more importantly, saves souls by the thousands.
If the Church follows my 7-Point Plan, I'm guaraneeing a 50% increase in nun recruitment by 2012. Guaranteed!

Thursday, July 27, 2006


According to A.P., the U.S. Army dismissed an 82nd Airborne Sergeant, an Arab language specialist, because he's gay, therefore violating the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

All I can say is, "Whew! It's a good thing we're not at war in a nation where the native language is Arabic."


According to AP, the Democrats have laid out plans for their latest strategy to re-take Congress in this November's midterm elections. Unfortunately, this article, like most others I've read, fails to go into any of the details for the so-called, "New Direction for America." Other than the standard call for an increase in the miminum wage (because forcing small business owners to pay workers $6.00 an hour as opposed to $5.15 is sure to solve the nation's economic woes and raise those workers out of poverty as if a bungee cord was tied to their waists), the plan wraps itself in vague promises to "go[] across the country to make our case," "reject the divisive politics of the last six years," and "unite America behind an agenda that works for all."

Luckily for us, our insider at both the DNC & DLC has for us the text of the Democrats' complete 5-Point Plan. Let's take a look, shall we?
1. Be careful never to mention the following words & phrases: "Iraq," "9-11," "Quagmire," "Dead American Soldiers," "Faltering Economy," "Dishonesty," "Incompetence," "Neglect of Duty," "Katrina," "Karl Rove," "Inflation," "Debt," "Abuse of Executive Power" or "Lying Republican Sacks-of-Shit." All other words & phrases are permitted & encouraged.

2. Take extreme care not to question the President's patriotism, integrity, honesty, competence, and qualifications. Doing so could potentially call one's own Patriotism, or "Americanism" into question. This would be fatal.

3. Under no circumstances should you even consider mentioning the words, "Impeach," "Impeachment," or "Impeachment & Conviction." All other forms of tough attacks on the Adminstration are encouraged.

4. Do not talk about the economy at all. Do not discuss inflation, oil prices, unemployment or fiscal & monetary policy.

5. Raise as much money as possible; any left over funds can go towards the 2008 campaign.
Sounds like a can't lose strategy. For the Republicans.


Reuters reports on a new product in the UK -- the blow-up "Buddy on Demand." Solo female drivers can apparently strap the strapping . . . uh, blow-up doll into the passenger seat so they'll feel safer while driving at night.


Seems extremely silly to me (and a likely source of ribbing from a lady's female friends), but I'm not a woman, so what do I know? Hell, as a card-carrying New Yorker I don't even own a car, so I should really be asking myself what the hell I know.

But I do know that based on the picture accompanying the linked article, Mr. Demand doesn't actually resemble a "real man." To the contrary, he resembles the Automatic Pilot from "Airplane!" Or Feck's, let's call her "Lady Friend," from River's Edge (but with a closed mouth here). Look at the picture, you'll see.

So my question is: if someone is inclined to leap from his car and attack the lonely lady stopped next to him at the deserted intersection, mightn't he choose the gal who's obviously so paralyzed by fear that she's driving around with a freaking plastic blow-up doll in the passenger seat?

But that's just my take on it; what do I know?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Here with a short entry out of the "I Actually Wish I Was Making This Up, But I'm Not" Files. Reuters' Health & Science Correspondent reports that:
"More and more obese [American] people are unable to get full medical care because they are either too big to fit into scanners, or their fat is too dense for X-rays or sound waves to penetrate."
Sometimes, my utter revulsion at the subject and the substance of a story just makes me wish it would go away. Well, this is one of those. I'm nauseous just thinking about it. And for that reason, I can't talk about this anymore, but check out the article if you dare.


Good news and bad news for the 11 people on earth who are actually fans of both the Mets and my blog. The bad news first: the Mets have lost three straight, yielding 24 runs in the process to the two worst hitting teams in the NL. And the good news? I'm too depressed about this to write one of my standard, sprawling pieces containing 6,000 words, 350 allusions to Met seasons past, 45 nicknames, and 23 mixed metaphors.

You can stop cheering. So, instead, a truncated set of Random Thoughts on last night's game, the sorry state of Met pitching, the impressive state of Met hitting, and maybe a Keith sighting or two. On to it:

One Step Forward, One Step Back: The Mets are 17-18 since returning from the famous "9-1 Road Trip." Over their last 15 games, following the sweep of the horrible Pirates, your N.Y. Mets have scored 94 runs, or 6.3 runs per game. Wow. Their record over those games? 8-7.

To barely crack .500 while scoring over 6 runs a game requires very bad pitching. You want very bad pitching? You got it: 5.13 runs given up per game. Pedro's missed the entire month of July; Trachsel's been so awful that even his usual run support can't buy him cheap wins; Glavine has fallen apart, El Duque can't string together two good starts; Heilman remains . . . weird; even "The Other Pedro," Feliciano, has started to show some troubling signs.

Still, I hope Omar doesn't make any panic moves; they're just gonna have to ride this out and hope that: Pedro comes back strong; Glavine can at least settle in as a 3-runs-in-6-innings guy; and either Maine or Pelfrey or a returning Brian Bannister can prevent some runs. But in the meantime, the boys with the lumber better keep putting up crooked numbers. Cause they're gonna have to.

Slugging, Slugging, Slugging: The Mets continue to put up huge offensive numbers despite an offense that doesn't walk much or even rank that highly in OBP (tied for 9th with four other teams). How can this be? Second in the league in SLG, including the top Isolated power numbers. Beltran, Wright, Delgado & Valentin all continue to slug well over .500, while Nady is close and Reyes, batting lead-off, is over .450. And with 2B and 3B totals near the top of the league, they're not just waiting for home runs. I've never seen a Met team lace hard line drives like this one. A pitcher better be on his game against these fellas or he's in for a very short outing. They will crush bad pitching and severely test the good.

And with the best SB numbers in the majors and speed throughout much of the line-up . . . the offense isn't the problem here. And it probably won't be from here on out. The only question is whether they can keep putting up high enough totals to bail out the increasingly shaky pitching. That's the issue.

Dizzy Darling: Last night, Ron Darling said that someone "swang" the bat. Just sayin, that's all.

Keith Declaration of the Day: You may recall that last week Keith told Met fans everywhere that California had "the best state flag" in the country. Well, on Monday night he informed us that the Reds and the Cards have "the best socks."

And no, I have absolutely no idea what I'm to do with that information. Nor would suggest anything to you in that regard. Just doing my duty passing it along.

On a sadder note, The Eternal Captain seems to be losing interest in both tumbling pitches and level swings. I guess, like the pitchers, Keith's enduring a little slump. He always pulled out of slumps quickly as a player, so I'm hopeful he'll get back on track. Keep that right shoulder in, Mex. Hands back, level swing . . .

9th Inning: Last night saw the Mets almost pull a come-from-behind victory in the 9th off shaky Cubs closer, Ryan Dumpster. Even though they didn't make it, I think it shows the strengths of the team, and I mean to run it down for you right now, based on what I actually wrote on my note pad last night as it played out. And why is that so special that Mike needs to bust out the italics, the 4 remaining readers ask?

I have no idea. But bear with me, there's a method to this madness.

Or maybe not. Let's check it out, shall we:
Following Wagner's strong 9th inning (like Armando, Hill Billy is lights out when the pressure's off), with the score standing at 8-5, the cameras turned to Wright as he jogged in, his face a mixture of boyish eagerness & gritty determination. And, no, I don't really know what the hell that means, but that's how it looked to me. Anyway, he was leading off, so as they went to commercial I wrote, "Wright looks eager coming in. Defining moment. 3 game losing streak vs. bad-hitting teams. Offense can carry. This could start a let's go moment."

So what happened? Wright exhibited patience and a quick bat, taking pitches and fouling off others to get ahead 3-1, then falling back to 3-2 before delivering a sharp single through the hole into left.

As I've said before, He Just Gets It. Like that other savvy left-side-of-the-infielder who plays in the Bronx (the one who doesn't ground into inning-ending double plays and slap balls out of pitchers' gloves), he has an incredible knack for rising at the key moment. I'm confident that if he finds himself in a big spot come October, he'll deliver. Confident. Now rush out and lay money based on my assessment. And give me a cut of the winning, as appreciation for the tip.

Anyway, so after Floyd made out, 'Stache came up and rapped a hard grounder to the right side. Neifi Perez nearly came up with what would have been a game-ending DP, but it got past him. Can't say I was suprised to see 'Stache make good contact there, even though it was nearly a disaster.

Then . . . my favorite Met (and yours too, admit it), Endy Chavez. I know he doesn't have much hitting talent, and I know he's overmatched against dominant pitchers. But between his baserunning, his gold glove-quality fielding, and his super-clutch hitting (364/453/500 w/ RISP), I feel confident when he's in the mix. And last night? After a tough, battling at-bat, he drew a walk, bringing the winning run to the plate.

And The Dumpster looked shaken after the walk.

That brought up Julio "I've Been In Baseball Longer Than Strom Thurmond Was In The Senate" Franco with the bases juiced. As I wrote on the notepad: "No DP, no DP, no DP." If you weren't thinking the same thing, you haven't watched many games this season. He did hit a grounder, but luckily it was too slow to turn, so two outs, one run in. 8-6.

Then Reyes, exhibiting his new skills to perfection. Almost too perfectly. Meaning what, you ask? Well, he ended up walking, which demonstrates his developing eye at the plate. But with Chavez on second as the tying run, I wanted a single. You knew that if the Mets loaded the bases, Dusty would pull The Dumpster.

And he did. And despite his hot bat lately, and the two hits he already had in the game, I was less-than-confident about LoDuca facing hard-throwing Bob Howry. And we know how that ended up. But even though they lost, even though the pitching was bad last night, the 9th inning left me pleased. None of the three outs were embarrassing; no one was overmatched. They pushed the Cub bullpen to the edge of its limits.
And seeing Wright, Reyes, my man Endy, & 'Stache all deliver in the clutch is a good sign. It's that type of thing that's gonna keep the Braves at bay in all likelihood. And win games in October, which is really what we're looking for, isn't it?

Now let's go Pedro!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


From the "Ever Wonder Which One's The Human And Which Is The Animal" Files, AP Sports reports that British jockey Paul O'Neill apologized for -- and no I'm not making this up -- head-butting his horse, City Affair.

Claims by an Appaloosan lip-reader that the horse called O'Neill "a short, funny-looking bastard" and "an IRA terrorist" have not been confirmed. Nonetheless, anonymous sources have told us that City Affair bragged to O'Neill that he "was hung like a horse," followed by graphic descriptions of how he'd use his endowment on the jockey's "mother and sister."

Despite these hijinks, O'Neill was awarded "Jockey of the Race" honors.


Just a brief request for all those who think that Bill Clinton was (and will eternally be) the savior of the Democratic Party, and by extension, of the American Left: read this AP piece on Slick Willie's defense of Joe Lieberman. The very same Lieberman who's been skewered mercilessly lately (including by me).

I've known for nearly 15 years that Bill Clinton, like his wife, looks out for one constituent: himself. And while I despise the right-wingers who bash him, I also grew very tired of the supposed leftists who defended his every move rightward.

What's the excuse gonna be this time?


Update, 8:34 AM, Wednesday: I just posted the picture I tried to upload four times yesteday. Those of you who have Blogger will understand. I suspect the rest of you will too. Anyway, that's the pic I wanted.


According to A.P., Chicago, the erstwhile "City of Big Shoulders" known around the world for it's blue-collar toughness & midwestern sensibilities, has banned the sale of foie gras, and forbids smoking in nearly all public places. As if this wasn't enough, city leaders from the unofficial capital of Prohibition-Flouting back during the 20's are considering legislation that would restrict the use of trans-fats in fast food cooking.

Jack Cravocic, our insider on Lake Michigan's shores, has been kind enough to let us in on a few of the other plans city aldermen have in store for Chicago. Let's take a look, shall we?
1. Changing the Un-official title from "Second City" to "Third City." According to Waldo Cranshaw, 54, a 23-year member of the city council, "this move would help to shatter the image of Chicagoans as rough-necked, back-room dealers, what with our history of gangsterism and union boss shakedowns. All Americans know that Los Angeles is the second largest city in the nation now. By voluntarily ceding the title to them, we can show everyone the 'New Chicago,' a place that's sensitive and honest." Asked if the town would become the "Fourth City" if and when Houston passed it, Cranshaw answered, "of course."

2. Outlawing Beef. "Nothing symbolizes old-time Chicago like the stockyards, right," Delroy Bradford, 39, another member of the council asked rhetorically. "Not to mention the image of fat guys eating meat created by George Wendt & Chris Farley on SNL. This law would change that view, a view that many Chicagoans find offensive. Plus, combined with the trans-fat measure, we can start cutting into our enormous collective waistline, second only to Houston on that count as well."

3. Selling The Chicago Bears To An Out-Of-Town Investor Who'll promise To Move The Franchise. Bradford continued, explaining that the "fat SNL rib-eaters" fostered an image of men that are "not only obsessed with beef," but with professional football as well. "We have world-famous symphonies, haute couture, continental chefs, art galleries and some of the best darn coffee you'll ever want to try here in Chicago. But all anyone ever wants to talk about is 'Da Bearse.' They're not even that good."

4. Decaffeinating All Coffee. When asked about this measure, in light of his inclusion of "the best darn coffee" among Chicago's charms, Bradford explained that he was speaking of "the taste, not the effect."

5. Finally, although still in its nascient stages, the city council is considering the elimination of "The Loop," or "The L," as the famous elevated trains in downtown are called. "We've determined that the residents of Chicago don't really like the elevated trains," Marcia Young, 32, of the North Side told our reporter. "They think they like it, but they're incorrect. In reality, it harms their hearing, harms their skin, and harms their self-image in that it presents our town as overly industrialized. That's the 'Old Chicago.' We have New American cuisine and Japanese hybrid cars now. Who needs The Loop?"
Windy City, indeed. If that breeze from City Hall is wind.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Here with the first entry in what I hope'll become a running gag: The Depressingly Inappropriate Cool Song Use In A Crappy Commercial, or when I'm feeling especially bitter, the "DICSUCC." Many of you remember the brouhaha back in 1987 I believe, when Nike used the Beatles' "Revolution" in one of its cheesy sneakers ads. The hand-wringing from the artiste crowd was impassioned, and the excuse-making response from the "Make A Buck At All Costs" crowd was cynical.

Seeing now how completely the latter group defeated the former, it's hard to believe there was actually a debate at one point. For every Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young that refuses to pimp out his portfolio, there's a Led Zeppelin song for Cadillac (ironically off an album from which no singles were released back in the day!), or the ubiquitous & revolting use of "Blitzkrieg Bop" for any product line pushing it's "rebelliousness." Rebellious gum, rebellious soap, rebellious diet soda, there's no limit.

Oh, by the way, I'm not suggesting that anything "should be done" about this. Songwriters should be free to cravenly peddle their art, and advertisers have never operated within any culturally-accepted framework. Quite to the contrary, it's advertisers who continually "move the line" from what's acceptable to what will be acceptable soon even if it's not right now. It's the way it is, and it ain't changing.

No, as usual, I just wanna make fun. So, with no further ado, the first two entries in what I assume (if not actually "hope") will be a running gag here. Yes indeed, ladies & gents, I present to you the first two DICSUCCs:
1. Magic Bus, The Who -- Nissan: In a rather clever commercial, a young boomer couple drives around with their children, enjoying the freedom of the road, cruising through one cool vista after another, as the jaunty rhythms of the Who's late-60's ode to psychedelia & capitalism plays. Yes, capitalism too. It's actually that underbelly to the original tune that makes it so effective for advertising: "I want it," "can I buy your Magic Bus?," "can't have it," "think how much you'll save." The song is filled with elements of consumerism, and it works. Hell, I almost went out and bought a damn minivan!

I'm making no sort of commentary here on Pete Townshend (he wants to buy you leather, remember?), nor on the 60's, not even on the obvious fact that the counter-culture ultimately referred to the "check-out" counter. Nah, no time for that. It's just despressing, that's all. But not nearly as much as . . .

2. One Way Or Another, Blondie -- Swiffer: Yeah, that is depressing, isn't it? Almost too much to let you realize how funny it is. Debbie Harry, the ultimate hot & bad babe of my early adolescence (sweet body, short skirts, sneered on camera, and said "pain in the ass" in a popular song when I was eleven years old) being used to sell the most mundane of household items. The irony is as thick as the riff from the rhythm guitar.

And that, my friends, is what drags it from bizarrely funny straight to depressing: this was Blondie's most ass-kicking song. A straight-out rocker, guitars coming right at you, about unbridled lust. (Or stalking; you decide). And now we get to hear it as we watch a pretty actress-as-housewife clean her floor with a disposable mop.
One Way Or Another, indeed. More of these to come I'm sure.


As many of you may know from the news, large chunks of Northwest Queens, including my own Astoria, have been without power for a week now. Following New York City's annual mercury ride into the high 90s early last week, massive thunderstorms arrived. The combo of those storms, the high temps, and the strain on the Big Apple's ancient infrastructure sent about half of the local feeder cables on the fritz.

Our power was out for two full days, and if you'll allow me to whine like a child, I'll tell you it sucked: rotten food, sticky & smelly air, boredom seeping like an infection as reading, writing, television, music were all eliminated (I know what you're thinking, and we went down that route . . . more than usual; but it gets you through only so many dead hours, and like I said, it was very hot & sticky). Now I'l stop whining like a child, though, because I realize that a goodly portion of my neighbors have gone seven days in the same circumstances.

If a time ever comes when oil & natural gas are at such a premium that few of us can afford to pay for them, it's gonna be ugly. Real ugly. We're spoiled rotten, just like the food we'll toss out of our freezers. We're unprepared for whatever may come. Oh well.

And what does this have to do with Urban America's Favorite Backyard Garden, the crowd asks? Perhaps I'm struggling to make some larger point about self-sufficiency, and reducing dependency on energy. I suppose. But mostly I'm offering excuses for why the garden hasn't continued to climb in the international rankings.

You see, as of last week our little patch of earth continued to set the gardening world on fire, one-magazine-after-the-other declaring our Green Urban Miracle the best they've seen. But last week, first extreme weather, and conditions leaving the world of expert gardeners "in the dark" to our progress conspired to keep us glued to our Third Best Garden in the World status. Tough on the soil, tough on the plants, tough on my ego. This week will be the greatest test yet. Versailles, look out.

So was the week a total washout (washout, get it? You know, heavy rain and . . . never mind)? Almost, but not entirely. We continued to harvest the tomatoes we planted in late April. Bright orange, slightly soft, and very juicy, they were perhaps slightly overripe, even water-logged from the storms. But they were very fresh, very clean tasting, with no trace of acidity or any cloying & unnatural sweetness. I'll reitterate what I've said regarding all our vegetables: they taste different than store-bought. Less sweet, less sour, more naturally bitter for the leafy greens, cleaner for the tomatoes and peppers. Fresh tomatoes, barely off the plant, with a light sprinkling of course-grain salt made a refreshing summer snack. Nice.

In the famous flower bed, the excess water & heat caused a terrible week for the impatiens, and my yellow begonia seems to have gotten too much water. I fear for it's future. But the marigolds and petunias did well somehow. As I've said many times, I'm still new to this, and I'm learning on the fly. From what I've seen, gardening is the ultimate "learn as you go, repeat the good, eliminate the bad" activity. Right or wrong, the plants tell you what works, what doesn't. And they tell you quickly. Try something new? You'll know soon enough if it's effective.

Close to 100 degrees heat waves, followed by scary thunderstorms ain't too good for most plants. Gardeners distracted by the loss of their power? Definitely not good. Back with a (hopefully) happier report next week from New York City's favorite temporarily pre-industrial outer borough.

Friday, July 21, 2006


This latest piece from Whiskey & Gunpowder highlights a problem that's worth keeping an eye on, in my opinion. As many of you know, last March the Federal Reserve suspended publication of M3, the most comprehensive measure of "money supply," which includes US currency, central bank accounts, demand (i.e., checking) accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, certificates of deposit . . . plus, most importantly, Eurodollar deposits and repurchase agreements (by which the Fed borrows -- or outright buys via a coupon pass -- securities from the US Treasury, Fannie/Freddie, etc., which results in the "excess liquidity" we hear so much about).


So, by discontinuing the publication of this measure of total liquidity, the Fed can keep us in the dark as to the root causes of inflation (an Increase in Money + Credit). Why? Many possibilities, the least nefarious of which would argue that because of derivatives and foreign currency, it's simply too difficult to keep tabs on all the inputs. The most nefarious? Let your imagination run wild.

Getting back on track, the Whiskey & Gunpowder piece I mentioned discusses the discontinuation of yet another piece of data useful to investors and curious citizens alike: the so-called COT report, which basically tracks the commitments of futures traders. The article will explain the significance of this better than I, so I'll just quote a short blip, then turn it over to those who actually know what the hell they're talking about:
"For those that have not heard the term 'COT report,' it is the Commitments of Traders report, which discloses the futures position of hedgers (commodity producers or buyers), big specs (hedge and mutual funds), and small specs (individual traders), and whether or not they are short or long and by how much they are short or long. That statement alone should be enough to tell you that certain players may not want their positions to be known. Rest assured that the big players will probably know it anyway, and not just once a week, either.

At a time when data are easy and cheap to gather, we should have more, not less, data. It seems the SEC, the CFTC, the Fed, and various other government agencies are acting to restrict the flow of information. Many people are upset about the cancellation of M3 reporting and fear the same will happen to COT data."

(Emphasis added). The entire article, which is quite short, is here. I recommend giving it a spin.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


From the "Wait, Lemme See If I Got This Straight" Files, direct to the (e-) pages of my blog, A.P. reports that Joe Lieberman finds himself trailing Ned Lamont, his Democratic opponent in their Connecticut Senator Race.

It's probably clear by now that I'm no fan of the two-party system, and while leaning more Left than Right, I loath both elephant & donkey. That said, may I ask . . . and this is surprising why, exactly?

Hideous Joe "God and I Are My Only Two Constituents" Lieberman announces that if he loses the primary, he'll run against the victorious Democrat in the general election anyway. And, lo & behold, the members of his own party, the one's he's explicitly told he'll stab in the back, have decided they won't vote for him anyway.

Wow, I guess some Americans still care more about themselves than about the shameless hacks they pay to represent them in DC. Congratulations to Connecticut voters, at least those registered as Dems who took part in this poll. Congrats for not being idiots.


A.P -- continuing to supply me with all-too-easy material as if it were a pipeline -- reports today that after 5+ years, President Bush will make the first appearence of his presidency before the NAACP Convention this afternoon.

According to the piece, "every president for the past several decades has spoken to the Baltimore-based [NAACP]," but Bush, who garned only "11 percent of the black vote in 2004 . . . declined invitations to address the annual NAACP convention" for five straight years. This year, however, with his own GOP facing catastrophic losses in midterm election, as well as a battle in the Senate over the renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Bush decided to accept the invitation.

One of our White House insiders, Candida Blanco, has supplied us with an transcript of the President's final run-through of his speech. Some highlights, if I may:
"I'm very honored to be invited by y'all to speak at the convention of the National Association for the, for the Association a' Colored people. I know y'all like ta' talk about why I didn't come here last year. Or the year 'fore that. Or the . . . ya know, the other years too. But I like colored people. Always have. Always will. An' I always have. I love the colored people's food. All those great homemade foods and things. Lots a' good foods that celebrate the common traditions that y'all colored folks share with the white southerners. Cause the common Southern ancestry of the colored man and the white community is a cause for celebration. To, ya know, to celebrate our similarities and our diversity. An' our common . . . our common differences and, ya know, our similarities too. With the colored folks . . .

An' sometimes when a hurr'cane hits, ya jus' haveta' make do with the best ya can, ya know, to do. Brownie did do the best job he could do. An the accusations that I let the colored people, the colored folks an' their families and friends in New Orleans suffer on account a' race or somethin, well that's just a buncha hokum. Hokum, now that's a word that makes me think a the good times I had with colored folks, even if they weren't members of y'alls National Colored Peoples Association. Jeb an' Neil an' I, we had a wonnerful colored lady used ta' come in an' take care a us. She wasn't jus' a nanny, cause she'd cook up this great pork dish sometimes. Oh, an' yeah, she'd, ya know, she'd use that word "hokum" sometimes. Part a her lexography and language I guess . . .

So, it's just isn't true that I opposed renewing the Voting Act a '65, an' the fact a' my father opposin it is irrelevant. And unimportant. And not, ya know, its not germane an all. I wanna protect the rights a all Amer'cans, the colored man included. An woman too. Back in college, ya know, I had a friend or two, I admit, a friend or two that didn't like colored girls, but I never cared about that. I mean, look at Condi over here . . ."

More coverage of the final speech later on.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Ring the bells, lock up the children, get on yer' knees and start praying, and for goodness sake make sure you've got a valid will. The end is surely nigh!

Yes, indeed folks, it happened. After five-and-a-half years, the impossible has become reality. George Bush, the president who never met a spending bill he didn't like, has issued a Veto.

As promised, the Decider vetoed a bill that would ease limits on federal embryonic stem cell research funding. I guess we've had it all wrong; George does keep his promises. Declaring that he couldn't support a bill that claims "innocent human lives," Bush demonstrated once and for all that a formless blob of cells is more important (and somehow more "innocent") than soldiers in the armed forces he commands.

And, most importantly, he's discovered the veto! Now, like the impulsive boy he's proven to be, we can only assume he'll get a bit veto-happy in the coming months. A few possibilities:

1. A Veto of the November Elections: Technically not legislation, so it's a tad unclear how this veto would work procedurally. But Bush has never been a stickler for Constitutional details.

Or fair elections. So this one shouldn't be a problem.

2. A Veto of the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government: this presents not only the "procedural difficulties" of the previous example (in that there's no legislation to object to), but since this branch is already toothless, it's also redundant.

3. A Veto of All Tax Obligations for a Select Cadre of his Friends and Supporters: For instance, demonstrating his continued misunderstanding of what, exactly, a veto is, Bush could "veto" the requirement of income tax for Dick Cheney, his father, his brother, his other brother, and all Saudi oilmen who conduct business in the U.S.

4. A Veto of "Vetoing," Should Anyone Not Meeting Administration Approval Win the 2008 Election: For instance, if any Democrat, Independent or Republican not named "Jeb Bush" wins the election, Bush could preemptively veto the incoming executive's veto power.

Then again, I'm not sure he'll be able to follow the logic there, so it's unlikely.

And finally . . .

5. A Veto of the Entire Bill of Rights: "Hey, ya'll don' need to, ya know, to worry about the . . . the Bill a' Rights is jus' another thing that y'all don' need to worry about. Ya got yer' rights, you don' need a bill to protect 'em. So, my fella Amer'cans, I'm jus' gonna have ta' veto that bill. A' rights. God Bless Amer'ca, and God Bless the veto. And Amer'ca. Now where the hell's Merkel? It's massage time!"


As many of you know, New York just got through two days averaging 102 degrees (celsius), followed by a series of thunderstorms last night that knocked down trees, uprooted small homes, and actually blew a batting practice ball hit by Pedro out of the yard.

No, the last part obviously didn't occur, and I'm not moonlighting as a meteorologist (the guys we used to call Weathermen). I'm just explaining, in advance, that my power's been out since about 20 minutes after last night's game ended (whew!), and I couldn't make or buy any coffee in my neighborhood this morning. I'm working through the first cup at the office as I write this.

I'm not a happy man right now.

But . . . I was happy last night for 20 minutes after the game ended. After missing the first 5 innings due to a combination of subway-related nightmares on my way home (see: NY Heat Wave + Thunderstorms, as discussed above), I caught four innings worth of what I love: Met win; Gary & Keith in the booth. Yeeessssss.

So, in light of the sleep in my eye, not to mention the lingering hangover you all must feel from my War & Peace-length posts last week (not sure whether hitting was war and pitching was peace, or vice versa. 'Cause when you think about it . . . oh wait, you're still here. Never mind), I present a brief -- but densely-packed with fun & frivolity -- Random Thoughts. Let's get to it, shall we?

Carlos! Beltran! (Yes, he's earned the exclamation points): Like the cold-blooded cyborg he is, The Beltranator continues to demolish all that lies before him. That wasn't a dig at the miles of empty space that lies before him as he plays center field from the warning track; I like his fielding. That grand slam last night was, dare I say it, a freakin bomb! Wow.

By the way, the games he missed matter, so I'm not trying to turn his season into something bigger than it is. But, for the perspective's sake, I'd like to note that in 82 games he's played, The Beltranator has hit 27 HRs and driven in 78 runs. That's a pace for a 50+ HR, 150+ RBI season without injury. Oh, did I mention the 71 runs scored, and 20 2Bs?

And . . . he's hit grand slams in 2 straight games, driving in 9 in the process. And what did the Met's favorite cyborg say about that feat? "That's baseball. Some days you feel good, some days you feel not so good." Uh, thanks, Carlos. I think we can safely say he's not letting himself get too giddy about it. Unlike . . .

David "The Greatest Star in Baseball History" Wright: What's he doing?! No extra base hits since the all-star break? One RBI? I hope he enjoyed his biiiiig weekend in Pittsburg, because the honeymoon's over in NY, big guy. That's it, he's not my favorite Met any more. And even though Rapido scored twice last night, I'm still pissed that he missed those games after stoo-pidly sliding into first. That's it, Beltran's my favorite Met now.

Until The Prince of New York goes yard. Then he may earn his way back into my good graces. But the pressure's on him now. Remember, folks, Young Mr. Wright does not want to piss me off. Remember that.

The Braves: Yeah, I don't even wanna think about it. Yeah, I know you don't wanna think about it either. But we're all thinking about it. Damn.

Power of positive thinking, guys. Positive! It's not like they've won more divisional titles in a row than any team in the history of the world or anything. C'mon, they're waaaaay back. I've never heard of the years 1951, 1978 or 1995. Never existed. The calendar just skipped over them. I don't even know what you're talking about.

The What Was Willie Thinking Moment: It's been a while since we've had the pleasure of a W3TM, but that's how it goes when you win and lose every game by blowout for a month straight. But last night in the Reds' 7th . . . well, Willie showed us why we're all worried about the Braves even though the Mets are up by 11 1/2 games.

Following Beltran's moonshot, the Mets had a 5 run lead. The Domestic Partners known as Chad-Brad came in and got two quick outs, while giving up a single (following LoDuca's dropped foul pop). After throwing only 12 pitches, Bradford handed the ball to Willie, who passed it on to The Other Pedro.

Yes, that's correct: 12 pitches, 5 run lead, overworked reliever Duaner Sanchez & bad reliever Aaron Heilman in the pen. Dunn & Griffey due up, so maybe going to the lefty was a good idea, right?

Wrong. Dunn is hitting 310/436/664 vs lefties this season, and 221/348/514 against righties (Griffey is slightly better versus righties, but the difference is negligible). Now I'll admit that Chad-Brad is better against righties, as is Feliciano versus lefties. But the differences are not of historic proportions, and most importantly, the Mets had a five run lead. The key, for Willie in that spot, was to finish the game without taxing his overworked bullpen. And, as usual, he failed to achieve that simple goal.

The result? Feliciano got two outs, giving up yet another inherited run (including a hit against Dunn!), and Sanchez had to warm up and throw 13 pitches. Not a lot, I'll admit, but 13 more than the Mets wanted him to toss.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the cumulative effect of Willie's little screw-ups will influence the stretch run and the post-season. The Mets' talent may very well render those effects moot. But it's one additional hurdle they don't need. Anyway . . .

Keith, The Eternal Captaincy, and the Never-ending 'Keith Obsession Watch': As any of you that read me regularly know, the only obsession in play here is the one I have about Hernandez and his broadcast booth stylings. I don't know why, but he's a source of endless amusement to me. I root for blowouts every time he's on. Not so much to avoid late-inning stress, but because as soon as a game gets out of hand, there's just no knowing what Keith'll let out of the bag. Last night was no exception. Let's review:

1. After Chris Cotter's nightly visit, dealing this time with the all important topic of chili dogs, Keith asked Gary how Cotter "keeps the weight off" with all that he eats. And I thought he was vainly concerned only with his permanently black hair, and the fancy 'stache. I'm quite certain Keith spends more time in front of the mirror than my wife does. No women in the dugout, but men permitted in front of the mirror in the ladies' room.

And that's before he even steps into a stall with one of the "powder room denizens."

2. Keith loves "the game LoDuca calls." This hasn't quite reached obsession status, but let's put it this way: unless he covers two or three straight games (a) with Ramon "My Head Is Even Larger Than Keith's" Castro behind the dish, (b) featuring excellent pitching, an (c) fine pitch selection, then this will be an obsession by August.

I'm feeling it, what can I tell you?

3. Commenting on the phenomenon known as "no matter what a manager does, the players have to execute," Keith launched into a riff that may qualify some day for the Ralph Kiner broadcasting hall of fame (remember Ralphie's "so on this Father's Day, we'd like to wish you all a Happy Birthday!"). First, he noted that without proper execution, a "good move" can end up looking like "the wrong move." Not elegantly-worded, but so far, so good.

Then, as a counter example, the Eternal Captain explained that with good execution on the player's part, a bad move can "come out smelling like a rose." Technically, I'm not sure the "correct" execution of a "bad" managerial decision results in anything but disaster, but I'm still following him here.

And then, with that patented formula of breezy confidence only Keith Hernandez brings, he declared, "So like I always say, 'Two wrongs don't make a right.'" Hey, I'm only relaying the facts, don't ask me.

4. Accoring to Keith, California's state flag is "the best" in the country. I'm not sure what to do with that information either.

5. And finally . . . a wrinkle in the fabric of the Obsession Watch. This one could be troublesome. As many of you may recall, only two official obsessions exist: level swings & tumbling pitches. But, you also may remember that "Right down Broadway," as the description of a fat pitch, is right at the end of the bench, waiting only for the manager to beckon, and it would enter the game once and for all.

And last night? A change-up ("tumbling," I'm sure). Three times in the last four innings, Keith observed pitches that were "right down the pipe." And yes, you're reading that correctly, he said "pipe," not "pike."

Not to be overly pedantic or anything (me?), but the correct use of the cliche is "right down the pike," as in "turnpike," which is consistent with Keith's use of "Broadway" in the fat pitch-down-the-heart-of-a major-thoroughfare sense. "Right down the pipe" sounds like something parents says to the toddler they're feeding. Anyway, a quick Google search shows that lots of baseball folks make the same error, so I'll assume Keith just pulled his shoulder out too soon, and give him a pass on this one.

But if I hear him say "tow the line" instead of "toe the line," then we've got a problem. Of course, unless he spells out the phrase, how'll I ever kno -- Oh, you're still here? So . . .

For those of you scoring at home (score it 6-to-4-to-3!), only one of the three "pitches down the pipe" was met by a "level swing": Rich Aurilia's single in the 7th. Beltran's grand slam, as well as his 9th inning double, came off pitches "right down the pipe," but apparently utilized an uppercut, and not a "level swing."

The Keith Obsession Watch Raised to High Alert.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


In a fresh bit of information straight out of the "Wait A Second, Am I Missing Something Here?" Files, we learn from AP that "Federal Officials" on a sweep for illegal immigrants detained 58 workers Monday.

Nothing too weird about that story, right. So what makes it noteworthy?

Well . . . maybe I'm making something outta nothing, but this is the part that strikes me as juuuuuuust a bit strange: They were caught with false or fraudulent identification as they tried to enter Fort Bragg to do contract work. Fort Bragg, for those of you wondering, is the home of both the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the 82nd Airborne Division. According to the article, "People trying to enter Fort Bragg with false IDs can be charged with criminal trespass and presenting false identification." Well that's reassuring.

Since no one else seems to have asked, let me be the one: shouldn't we be checking the qualifications of civilians -- illegal, legal, domestic, Martian -- before they're hired to do contract work at one of our army bases?

Come to think of it, someone better get down to Gitmo and start checking IDs! They may be fake.

The War on Terror, baby. Fought everywhere except Reality.


This, according to an AP piece today: "Caucuses," the latest development in the traditional phenomenon known as "Elected Officials Whoring For Campaign Dollars," have really taken hold recently. As reported in the piece:
"Hundreds of informal clubs — usually known as caucuses . . . have sprung up to advocate for special interests, with little public accountability . . . Congress has allowed the caucuses to be affiliated with foundations that can raise unlimited amounts of money from special interests to finance social events and activities without having to disclose expenses or donations — as lawmakers must for campaigns, political action committee and other groups. That means no scrutiny by ethics enforcers, campaign finance regulators or the public . . . Any member of Congress can form a caucus simply by writing a 'Dear Colleague' letter inviting others to join. The caucuses bring like-minded politicians together to promote particular issues. The groups also can aid lawmakers' fundraising connections, raise their profiles on issues that affect politically powerful interests back home and provide hobnobbing with celebrities or recreation that costs them nothing."
None of this should surprise you, but it nevertheless gives me ammunition to lob some cheap-shots at our elected, federal officials. A few examples from the article, if I may:
* Rep. Nick Rahall II, Democrat from W.Va., played golf with a lobbyist for the Teamsters union and a retired admiral who heads the Nuclear Energy Institute at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus golf outing.

Say what? Well, let's allow Mr. Rahall ( a non-Hispanic from a state without many Hispanics) explain: "It wasn't an accident," he said. According to the article, "The lawmaker hails from an energy producing state where Teamsters are influential."

Incidentally, organizers refused to allow press access to the event at Andrews Air Force Base. Sponsors of the "golf tournament" include Nike, the pharaceutical industry lobby PhRMA, Coca-Cola, the Teamsters, & R.J. Reynolds. Altria, Philip Morris' parent company, "paid for breakfast," while AT&T sponsored golf carts.

* "The Congressional Internet Caucus lets high-tech and Internet companies like AT&T, Google and Microsoft serve on an advisory committee, giving industry a chance to bend lawmakers' ears and show off their latest technology."

* Sen. Conrad Burns, Republican from Montana belongs to 18 caucuses, including the Sweetener Caucus. "I don't think I've ever attended [a caucus meeting]. I do what my growers tell me. I know we grow a lot of sugar beets in Montana."

NASCAR legend Richard Petty has visited Capitol Hill as a representative of "the Specialty Equipment Market Association." Every other year, Congressional members of the "Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus" join Petty's organinization for a rally in D.C.

Yes, that's correct. Some of your elected officials, paid through your tax dollars, belong to the "Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus. Think that's bad? Well, how bout . . .

* The Congressional Gaming Caucus, led by Nevada Reps, Jim Gibbons and Shelley Berkley, Republican & Democrat, respectively. Following Katrina, the "Gaming Caucus" sought federal relief to rebuild Gulf Coast casinos, with expected resistence from certain quarters.

The compromise reached "by the caucus"? According to the article, "Hotels with casinos received recovery aid to help rebuild the lodging portions of their complexes."

Explaining her pride in serving as co-chair of the Gaming Caucus, Berkley said, "When I was chairman of the board of the Nevada Hotel/Motel Association, a lot of middle management gaming executives were members of my board. They are running these hotels now. My relationship is up close and personal."

* Carole King, George Wendt, Patty Duke, Sean Astin performed for members of The Congressional Arts Caucus and the Entertainment Caucus. According to Robin Bronk of the event's sponsor, the Creative Coalition, "We realize we live in a society that is drawn to celebrities . . . We try and use the power of the entertainment industry to shine a spotlight on issues of social importance."

And what are these issues of "social importance"? I have no explicit answer, but the piece informs us that "the group's issues include tax breaks for production companies that make movies and TV shows, more arts funding and opposition to government indecency regulations."

Interesting. Seek tax breaks and funding from the very entity one supposedly seeks to de-fang.

* Rep. Donald Payne, Democrat from New Jersey, is a co-chairman of the Caribbean Caucus. Because, as he explained, "If it's the Caribbean caucus, you have to go to the Caribbean," Payne took "at least 14 trips to Caribbean islands, Panama and Puerto Rico between November 2000 and the end of 2005."

One of these jaunts, the "10th anniversary of the Caribbean Multi National Business Conference" took place in St. Thomas last November, at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, described as a "beach-and-water sport lover's paradise."

(Emphases added). There's more, but frankly I'm so disgusted, I don't wanna write any more about this.

I know I've said it here before, and I guarantee I'll say it again & again before midterm elections: Kick The Bums Out. All of them. Unless a Congressional candidate promises not to join one of these "caucuses," unless he promises not to yield any more of his legislative duties to the executive branch, unless she promises to vote to impeach/convict the President and Vice-President . . . Vote Them Out. Republican, Democrat, Independent, it doesn't matter.

Elect new blood. It's time.

Monday, July 17, 2006


A.P. "Econonics Writer," Jeannine Aversa, has given us a valuable look inside the much-ballyhooed G-8 meeting held this week in St. Petersburg, Russia. According to Aversa, microphones actually picked up America's Commander-in-Chief telling the following to Tony Blair & Vladimir Putin:
"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doin this s--- and it's over."

Kofi Annan needs to get on the phone with Syrian President Assad and "make something happen."

A discussion of Blair's sweater, which saw the PM admitted that he "absolutely" picked it out himself.

And, "You eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. ... Russia's big and so is China. Yo Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving?"
As always, I'm compelled to note, those are the actual conversations, as reported by Aversa & A.P. To repeat, this is what America's President talks about at a meeting of the leaders of the world's most powerful nations as the global economy shudders, and while a regional conflict rages (read: the latest potential for WWIII brews in the World's Powder Keg). I'm serious; check the link.

Although not confirmed by A.P., Pavel Bazarov, our insider in St Petersburg, tells us that "secret microphone once used in Reykjavik by KGB to listen to Reagan speak to Schultz, Weinberger, Nancy and astrologer," has also picked up the following exchange between the three leaders:
GB: So whattaya' ya'll think a' Angela [Merkel, the German Chancellor]? I kinda like, ya know, the whole tough, German chick thing.

VP: I had plenty German girl when travel to DDR in 80s. They not great.

TB: Actually, if I can be honest, I think she's wonderful. A strict German lady has an effect over me that I can't quite describe. As a boy, my nanny was a Teutonic woman, and she always spoke with an accent that was so harsh, even as it was --

GB: I never had a German. I went to, ya know, to the, to Germany once, but . . . hey! Yeah, you. Get me some a' that sturgeon stuff. Putin, I gotta tell ya, y'all got some pretty good food here. But that suckling pig I had when I visited Angela in Germany, that's what got me, ya know, all thinking about whether I'd want her or not. Hell, y'all ever watched Emeril? Some great pork recipes on that show. I love when he says "bam!" Get's me kinda' hungry and all . . .


Despite a disappointing week in the gardening press (no feature articles in any major magazines, and only two honorable mentions in global polls determining "The Greatest Gardens of the 19th, 20th & 21st Century"), things are nonetheless progressing nicely in Urban America's Favorite Backyard Garden. I've included a picture of our famous South Pool at left. In the background you'll notice construction taking place on our neighbor's propertly, causing us no small amount of dismay as it destroys our sight lines.

As mentioned last week
, the red lettuce is nearing the end of its life cycle. The tall stalks and flowers suggested this; the bitter tasting leaves confirm it. My wife bought some spinach seeds, though, and we should have a "harvest" of these new greens by Labor Day, if all goes well. Spinach, like many green vegetables, seems ill-suited to maturing in the peak of summer. So seeding now, germinating in early August, as maturing in late summer may be ideal.

We also keep planning to start seeding for fall flowers (Mumms, Chrysanthemums), but as of yet, we haven't done so. Magical though Urban America's Favorite Backyard Garden is, we've not yet reached the point where flowers or vegetables plant themsleves and grow on their own, so we'd better get going on this soon.

Things don't grow on their own, that is, unless you count weeds. And speaking of weeds, the combo of diligent weeding and a nice layer of mulch has kept them at bay most of the summer. After a nearly daily battle back in late spring (the Aphinator took on the ooze-creating bugs; I tilted my lance at the various weeds that do, indeed, grow in Queens), I seem to have won the war this year. I still find it difficult, as I did last year, to keep our various annuals healthy and in bloom through the heat of mid-summer, but at least the weeds are minimal.

Finally, the tomatoes and peppers look good. We've been eating peppers for a couple weeks now: large, green ones which are both flavorful & somewhat hot, and now some red & reddish brown fellas are showing up. I'll give a flavor report on the latter once we try them. The largest tomato is orange and getting redder, while most of the others have turned yellow. The only green tomatoes right now are the little ones that only started growing within the past week.

I suspect that by next week, we'll have dined on the first tomato or two, and I'll report on how it went down.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Don't count me among the aging rockers bemoaning the closing of the legendary New York City shithole known as CBGB, despite not having been there in 23 years. The place served a vital role 30 years ago, but them days is looooong gone, and Hilly can do what he wants with his own place.

Nonetheless, I'll admit I find this news just a tad disconcerting:
Check out the link. It's true.


Intelligent Design "scientists" and scholars are furiously devising responses to recent revelations that Darwin's famous Galapagos finches are once again evolving.

"God is obviously testing us, but we'll prove that it's consistent with our theory," said noted Intelligent Design Expert Gregory Jasper, 43, from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. "The smug scientists who mock us don't realize that we, too, have our own so-called Scientific Method. But ours was developed by God, himself, and it adds the element of Faith. Observation, Inference, Hypothesis, Testing, Faith."

Saarhoos Venderssen and Pradrithran Sihmdharm, 32 & 51, who shared the Nobel Prize for Biology in 1999 for their research into evolution, declined to address Jasper's methodology. "This is not science," said Sihmdharm, waving his hand disdainfully. "This is hoodoo."

"It's woodoo, too," Venderssen added, before Sihmdharm corrected him, explaining that the correct pronunciation is "voodoo."

When questioned, God, 4,324,861,543, of Heaven, tried to disassociate himself from the Intelligent Designers: "I don't know why these wack-jobs keep invoking my name when they spout forth with their crackpot theories," a clearly weary Eternal Father told us, swigging a cold beer while reclining with three rather fetching female angels on a throne of clouds. "Evolution, and all natural phenomena in fact, have nothing to do with me. I just wanna chill up here, with the other souls. What goes on down on Earth is none of my business. Those birds are doing whatever it is they're doing on their own. I couldn't give a damn about them. And, believe me, I can give a damn if I want to."

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Welcome back for Part II the First Annual Mets All Star Break Review & Analysis ("FAMASBRA"), which I began on Tuesday. In contrast, this entry will end on Friday (or it'll seem that way by the time you reach the end). As expected, Part I set the baseball world on fire, as nearly every sportwriter & talk-show host has spent the last 48 hours arguing about my conclusions. Only one thing will bring them back to earth: My discussion of Met Pitching. As with hitting, I'll first address the staff as a whole, then discuss the individual pitchers, separated by tier.

The good news can be summed up by the Mets' number two NL rankings in both ERA and WHIP -- trailing only the Padres, who play half their games in a stadium the size of a Polo field -- as well as third place in strikeouts. They're 5th in K/BB ratio, trailing the D-Backs, Reds, Padres, and Astros. Unfortunately, 8 teams have issued fewer free passes than the Mets have. On the road, their ERA & WHIP rankings drop to third, and strikeouts to 5th. While Shea's helped them, it's not a huge factor.

The truly worrisome fact is something I discussed briefly in Part I on Tuesday: the nearly 4.7 runs given up per game since the end of the famous "9-1 Road Trip." That's too many for a team playing in Shea, too many for a team looking to earn a slot in, and advance in, the post-season, too many for a good team, period. And with very few exceptions, it's been a staff-wide meltdown over those 24 games.

The simple fact is that the Mets have a good pitching staff. Not great, not the best in the NL (as is true for the hitting), but pretty darn good. But -- and he's the proverbial rub -- the pitchers are old, somewhat injury prone, and the last month suggests that the April/May honeymoon is over. Pedro's health, Glavine's wrestling match with Father Time, the inability of anyone to emerge and grab the remaining rotation spots, the inconsistency of Wagner/Sanchez/Heilman since late May. There's no shortage of question marks.

Ok, let's get to it, shall we? Without further ado . . .

The Starters:

TIER I -- The Elite.

Scott Kazmir: Sorry, I had to do that.

TIER II -- Elite Lite.

Tommy Strikezone: He's been one of the team's real pleasant surprises so far. I'll admit I was ready to send his ass out to pasture last year at mid-season, and I remained unconvinced following his second-half resurgence as the Mets fell out of the post-season hunt. But then when he continued to drink from the fountain of youth this season, I figured maybe he'd turned the corner. A smart guy learning how to pitch in a different era, under different circumstances, with different skills. Like Seaver eking out 5 extra years as an effective junk-baller, or Ryan or Clemens learning to use their split-fingers as an out pitch.

From August '05 through this May '06, Glavine made 22 starts, going 14-6/2.30/1.02 over 156 1/3 innings, while giving up only 123 hits and 9 homers. He walked 36 and K'd 109! Since the end of May, however, he's returned to that lost land in which he wandered for the first half of last season, putting up the following pedestrian numbers over 8 starts: 3-0/4.89/1.63, on 46 IP, 63 H, 10 (!) HR, 14 BB, and only 22 K.

This is serious, in my opinion. His BB rate has risen from slightly over 2 per 9 innings to a bit under 3, but that's not even the trouble spot. What concerns me is his K rate, which has plummeted, going from a stellar 6.9K/9 IP to an unacceptable 4.3. It's no surpise that his BA yielded has jumped and the number of longballs has gone through the roof.

The good news is that Glavine, more than any pitcher in my lifetime, has defied conventional wisdom. His K/BB ratios were never that good, and he's fought back from seemingly career-ending slumps on more than one occasion. All things being considered, his record this year (11-2/3.48/1.32) is fine, if not as spectacular as it looked 45 days ago. If this is what the Mets number 2 starter's gonna do through the end of the season, we're fine.

But I'm concerned.

Pedro: Before his strange shirt-removing injury in Florida (no, I don't quite get it either), he was doing pretty much the same thing he did for most of last year: striking out a lot of guys, giving up a miniscule number of baserunners, and yet somehow still giving up runs. Not a lot of runs, but more than you'd expect based on the WHIP. Even considering the HR totals, Pedro was given up more runs than "he should have." 5-1/2.50/0.81 pre-injury.

Whatever. 2 runs a game, 2 1/2 runs, 3. You'll win a lot more than you'll lose in either case. Or, in Pedro's case, when your offense makes like the '78 Mets, and Skip Lockwood or one of the other "Bad Times Closers" seems to blow all your leads, you won't win any of those games either.

But when you give up 6+ runs a game? You're gonna lose (just ask Alay Soler or John Maine).

Pedro's numbers in June? 2-3/6.23/1.58! 30 hits and 11 walks in 26 innings, plus 5 homers. And "only" 23 strikeouts. I'll say this. He'd better be injured, because if he's not, he's finished. We'd be better served with Nelson de la Rosa on the mound if that's what he's gonna do. Hell, we'd be better served with Lima Time! on the hill.

Actually, we wouldn't. A 6.23 ERA is far lower than what Lima Time! actually compiled.

Anyhow, I have to assume that Pedro is hurt, that his injury's coinciding with his standard "one month's worth of awful starts at some seemingly random, but actually well-planned, point in the season" routine, and he'll be juuuuuuuust fine for August and September. And October.

And if you follow me, I mean that. I have to assume he'll be ok. And so do you. Oh my, this is too scary to contemplate, so I'm moving on. (And a quick gander at some of the stiffs coming in the next few entries, and you'll know why it's scary.)

TIER III -- Slight Leak.

Ok. That was nice. Moving on . . .

TIER IV -- Better Get Those Buckets Ready.

El Duque
: 3-4/4.14/1.25. Not great numbers, but ok. He's managed to pitch some decent games (the complete game win vs. the D-Backs and the tough loss to the Yanks being good examples), and his peripherals are excellent: 2.64 K/BB; 7.3 K/9; a decent BA against (.251), and with no earned runs allowed, his slightly-over-four ERA paints an accurate picture. I feel fine with him as the number three starter.

No I don't, who the hell am I bullshitting. Our number three starter is a 51 year-old who gets rocked every other time out? Ohhhhh my.

Power of positive thinking, Mike. It's all gonna be ok. Positive, positive, positive . . .

Cy Trachsel
: I'm tempted (very tempted) to move him down to Tier V, but I'll allow him to escape that fate (and thereby escape association with the Lima Time!s of the world) because he's received more run support than Ed Lynch used to get, and managed to compile an 8-4 record.

"Wait a second, Mike," the readers shout. "You mean that you, stat geek extraordinaire, are actually rating a guy higher than he deserves because he got lucky?"

Yes, I am. Positivity, remember? And, who knows, maybe Trachs is reading this. He looks like a sensitive sort, so I wanna keep him up and motivated.

Of course his unrepresentative 8-4 record is accompanied by an ERA of 4.67 and a gruesome 1.58 WHIP. His K/BB ratio is 1.05 (yes, for those of you playing along at home, that is worse than Soler's). His K/9 is 4.3. The league's batting .286 off him, and he's managed to give up 12 home runs. Not only is his record lucky based on his ERA, but his ERA is lucky based on his other indicators. A 4.10 ERA during a six game win streak is higher than you'd expect, but not utterly shocking. But over that period his WHIP was 1.63, and his K/BB ratio 0.68!

Ugghhh. Enough is enough. He sucks. I'm demoting him. He's in Tier V:

TIER V -- Start Bailing.

Cy Trachsel
: See above.

Brian Bannister & Mike Pelfrey: I assume they'll both be good eventually (see my "have to assume" comment regarding Pedro). But with six combined starts featuring only 17 Ks and 21 BBs in 33 IP, we're wise to follow "The Wolf's" advice to Vincent, Jules & Jimmy in Pulp Fiction, and stay off our knees for the time being. The combined 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA is fine, but their combined wildness tells us they're not quite ready for prime time.

That said, I'm hoping they keep Pelfrey up and in the bullpen. Plus, with Bannister hitting 400/400/700, maybe they keep him around to pinch hit. As long as he doesn't have to run the bases.

TIER VI -- Bail Faster!

Ok. That was nice. Moving on . . .

TIER VII -- Thrown Overboard (or should be).

Maine, Soler, Fuckin' Zambrano, Gonzalez & Lima Time!:
Just abominable. The fact that Fuckin' Zambrano, Gonzalez & Lima Time! even saw action on a big league staff is inexcusable. Maine & Soler have been awful, but with their youth and their stuff (relatively speaking on both counts), I can see why they got their opportunities.

Not that they didn't stink it up too. The combined stats for these five? Hope you're sitting down. 3-12/6.81/1.66 over 23 starts and 113+ IP. (And yes, that's correct. The WHIP is only slightly worse than Trachsel's). Just monstrous. But other than repeating -- for cathartic effect only -- that Lime Time! sucks, there's really not much to say here.

The Bullpen:

There's no one in Tier I, and I'm not too sure any of them even deserve Tier II status. But the top four guys are certainly above Tier III.

You following this? Don't worry, I'm not either. But don't worry, it'll all make sense in the end.

Or maybe it won't. Anyway . . .

TIER II I/II (Roman Numerals are not helpful for fractions) -- Elite Slight Leak.

Billy "Shut Your Damn Mouth & Concentrate On Pitching" Wagner
: I don't like him. I don't trust him. I'm certain he will blow at least one key game in October. And on top of that, he seems to need to flap his gums to the press about some nonsense every week. About the Phillies and their lack of chemistry, about the need to trade for Willis, about how he's blown four saves plus the 4 run debacle against the Yanks in the non-save situation.

Oh wait. He didn't say anything about the last part. That was me.

Seriously, he walks too many batters for an elite closer. Nearly 4 per 9 innings.

"El Otro Pedro" Feliciano: Solid LOOGY, showing some signs of returning to earth lately. What else can I say? This whole LOOGY thing baffles me.

Duaner "Dirty" Sanchez: Lights out through May 5: 21 IP, 8 H, o R, 7 BB, 17 K. Wow! Since May 5 . . . 26 2/3 IP, 30 H, 16 R, 13 ER, 3 HR, 14 BB, 17 K. That's an ERA of 4.39 and a WHIP of 1.65. Both waaaaaaaay too high for a late inning reliever. His K/BB over that period? 1.21. His K/9? Under 6.

I don't know if he's fatigued, if he's been slumping, if he's reurning to pre-2005 form. I just don't know. But those numbers (two months worth) are simply unacceptable for your 8th inning guy. I'll keep him in tier II I/II based on the awesome start, and his good season last year, but he's dropping fast.

Oliver & The Domestic Partners Known As Chad-Brad: A hidden strength of the team. They could be a tier higher, but since they usually pitch in mop-up, long situations, etc . . .

But their combined 6-2/2.68/1.02, with a K/BB of nearly 3 is excellent. Nothing bad to say here. Although someone's needs to ask this, so I'll be the one: Darren Oliver??? Are you kidding me! Before the season, if I asked you to identify the Mets' "What the hell is he doing on the team?" or "What the hell is he doing in the majors?" the only guy who could've hoped to garner as many votes as Oliver would've been 'Stache, right? And unlike 'Stache, who's obviously stepped into The Juvenation Machine (or is shacking up with Willie), Oliver was never good. Ever!

This is simply inexplicable. Shit, I'd better stop talking about it or someone's gonna notice, and void his contract with Mephistopheles. In fact, if anyone asks, you never read what I just said about him. I never even wrote it. Deal? Good. Let's continue, shall we?

TIER IV -- Start Bailing.

Aaron "Sieg" Heilman
(credit to my friend, F.I., for the nickname): Utterly perplexing. Awesome last year. Slated in his own mind, and most of ours, as a starter this year. Then passed over for Bannister, despite outpitching him badly in spring training. Then, a solid, if not spectacular, start to the year: through the end of May his ERA was 3.03, his WHIP 1.21, his K/BB over 2, his K/9 almost 9.

And then three things happened. First he was passed over for a starter's slot in favor of Lima Time!, John "Forget The" Maine, and Jeremi Gonzales. Talk about betrayal! Second, Omar foolishly dubbed him "The Best Reliever in the Game." Third, he started to suck. Since the beginning of June? 6.30/1.45, with only 13 K in 20 IP. His walk rate actually dropped, and his K/BB improved. But under 6 strikeouts per 9 innings is simply not where a late inning reliever needs to be.

I think he can, and will, turn it around, but this is what he's done so far, and Tier IV is where he belongs.

And yes, I'm as exhausted as you right now.

Heath Bell: Even more perplexing. The guy has 19 strikeouts in 22 innings, yet the league's batting .344 against him. And yet (yes, that's two "yets"; I told you, I'm getting punchy), with that .344 BA, his ERA is "only" 3.68. How could that be?

Two reasons. One, his K/BB is good, over 2. He's also given up 913 inherited runners. But most importantly, he's allowed 4 unearned runs in those 22 innings. His RA (as opposed to ERA) is 5.32. Yup, he's been that bad.

Whew. Done. I'm drenched in sweat, I'm gasping harder than Dick Cheney after climbing one step, and my brain has been replaced my a skullfull of mush. But this has been my gift to you!

And, to wipe away any lingering negativity from the run-down of the Mets pitchers, let me leave you with the following positive images: Baseball returning this weekend; Keith in the booth; guys with holes in their necks and other human disasters telling you not to smoke; the goofball from American Idol singing about how he "get's what he needs," and . . . El Rapido & the Prince of New York manning the left side of the infield.

(Admit it. The last two made you smile, didn't they?)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


In the wake of the massive, coordinated bombing strike on Bombay's commuter trains yesterday, we learn that my own New York City will once again step up the random bag searches that were supposedly in place since last year's massive, coordinated bombing strike on London's urban transit system.

Let's review:
* Last summer, London subways and buses attacked. New York subway riders randomly searched for a month or two.

* Yesterday, Bombay trains attacked. New York subway riders randomly searched today.
Is it just me, or does this make no sense.


Fresh from the "Will Germany Celebrate Hitler's Birthday In 800 Years When It Become An Insignificant Third World Backwater" Files, A.P. reports on Mongolia's huge, state-sponsored observation of the 800 Year Anniversary of Ghengis Khan's blood-soaked conquest of much of Asia and parts of Europe.

Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar actually said that "We Mongolians must be united and have one goal: to develop our country. Remember Genghis Khan and his great deeds," while Tserendulam, a recently retired cook, actually added that, "I feel so proud to have been born in the land of the Great Khan who conquered most of the world."

In addition to these stupendously bizarre statements, the A.P. piece actually reports that "images of Genghis Khan, often as a wizened elder, have been plastered on billboards, etched in white stones on a mountainside and used to promote tourism. A rock opera of the conqueror's life — modeled on 'Jesus Christ Superstar' — is being staged by a popular band."

Finally, a new government slogan actually declares: "We are forefathers of globalization."

Not that I had plans any to travel to Ulan Bator, to check out whether they really ate "Mongolian Grill," but I think I'm gonna cross this former Communist shithole off my vacation short list.

But, just to show I'm not picking on native Mongolians only, for still reveling in atrocities committed almost a millenium ago, let me note that Munkh-Orgil, in possession of a Harvard Law School degree, actually said, "Our ancestor 800 years ago not only brought war and destruction, but he also brought liberation and freedom. As to the methods, it was the 13th century. What could we say?"

Uhhh, maybe that it was barbarism? Or that Khan's hatred of civilization, plus his destruction of all that stood in his path, may have contributed to Mongolia's 750+ year history of isolation and underdevelopement?

Just a suggestion.