Thursday, August 31, 2006


In fact, don't believe a thing you hear from Washington. And you know what, it's stories like this that make me doubt just about everything I read, in terms of veracity, in terms of my citizenship, in terms of my membership in my species.

Because frankly, I don't really know what to make of these two "facts": On Tuesday, American Free Press reported that US Consumer Confidence slumped to a "year low" in August. "American cosmumers," the piece informed us, were "worried about sky-high energy prices, rising interest rates and lackluster jobs growth."

But then, this morning, I read from the "AP Economics Writer," that "consumer spending jumped in July," on the strength of the so-called "back-to-school shopping season" which "offer[ed] hope that the current economic slowdown may be less severe than some had feared."

Ok, so one story spoke of July, the other of August, right? Sounds odd, in that you'd think the month that lies closer to the return to school would see the increase in "back-to-school shopping." But this doesn't quite rise to the level of "fishy." But . . . the AP piece goes on to say that:
"A separate report indicated that consumers continued spending in August with the nation's big chain stores showing solid gains during the all-important back-to-school shopping period despite high energy prices and a cooling housing market."
So, piecing together these two tales, we can conclude that Americans spent like meth-addled teenagers with daddy's over-extended credit card in July, proving that fears about energy prices and housing declines were so much Chicken Little worrying. This spending continued unabated into August despite high energy prices and the cooling real estate market. And, while the American consumer continued to spend and spend and spend, he "worried about sky-high energy prices, rising interest rates and lackluster jobs growth."

Schizophrenia? Misplaced faith? False data? Abject lies? Rank stupidity? Power of propaganda?

Is this a story of American consumer debt? Of the failure of The Press? Of an economic disaster lurking around the corner? Of a government peddling deliberately contradictory information? Of the chickens of a flawed education system coming home to roost?

What can we make of this?


Straight from the "Gee, Now How Could That Possibly Have Happened" Files, we learn from Reuters that "Industrialized nations' emissions of greenhouse gases edged up to the highest level in more than a decade in 2004" despite the Kyoto Accord and other measures to fight global warming.

Now I'm no environmental expert, so I'll leave the analysis here to those who know something about the science & the geopolitics behind this data. But I will note that the United States -- the third most populated nation on earth, and the clear leader in industrial output -- is not a signatory to the Kyoto Accord.

But we all know that, right.

Well, neither is Australia. And, despite signing the Accord, China & India (those would numbers one & two in population, for those scoring at home, as well as two of the fastest growing economies in the world) are not required to reduce carbon emissions!

Seems to me the shock shouldn't come from the 1.6% increase in greenhouse gases, but from the fact that the numbers aren't worse.


According to BBC News, a religious & political brouhaha is brewing in Jharkhand, a state in eastern India.

(A brewing brouhaha. Get it? You know, alliteration and consonance and all that . . . oh, never mind).

Seems that the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, literally meaning "Indian People's Party," is in power in Jharkhand, and its leaders want all students to sing India's national song, Vande Mataram, on the 100th anniversary of its composition by Bankim Chandra Chattopadyay. (Say that sentence 5 times, real quickly. C'mon, I dare you.)

Ok, so some ultra-nationalist party wants some flag-waving yahooism, what's so strange about that, right? Well, it'll come as no suprise to anyone that Jharkhand's Muslims don't want their children singing the Vande Mataram, because they claim it's an ode to Durga, an Hindu goddess. And that, of course, would qualify as blasphemy or apostasy or idolotry, or one of those bad things that fundies of all shapes and sizes find so offensive. As Obaidullah Qasmi, a prayer leader of a Jharkhand mosque explains:
singing the Vande Mataram, which translates as "Mother I bow before thee," is against the basic tenets of Islam. "A Muslim bows only before Allah. We cannot equate the country with a goddess."
(Empasis added). Mr. Qasmi didn't say whether prostration before a god (no "ess") would be equally offensive. And, just to allay global concerns that India's Muslims were gaining the high ground in terms of religious archaism and stubbornness, "BJP minority-wing leader Rizwan Khan" told reporters that:
We will ensure that the national song is sung at all prominent intersections in the cities and towns across the state. Those who don't want to sing Vande Mataram are anti-nationals."
(Emphasis added). Now why does that sound familiar to me?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The Campaign of Fear, that is.

According to Reuters, a Quinnipiac University Poll indicates that "Most Americans expect a terrorist attack on the United States in the next few months and support the screening of people who look 'Middle Eastern' at airports and train stations."

More specifically, the poll shows that "62 percent of Americans were 'very worried' or 'somewhat worried' that terrorists would strike the nation in the next few months," while "60 percent . . . said authorities should single out people who look 'Middle Eastern' for security screening at locations such as airports and train stations."

"The next few months." Well, today's August 30, making November 7 just over two months away. November 7 is Election Day. "Just over two months" probably fits under the tent of "the next few months," right? Next thing you know, incumbant Senators, the Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense will start telling us we'd better keep them in office if we want to be safe from "the terrorists."


Somehow I never thought it would be this simple. In 1984, the Inner Party at least needed the threat of punishment and outright torture to lead the masses. In reality, though, the current Adminstration needs only to say something a few times, and voila, it becomes true.


From the "Well, Ain't That Ironic" Files. According to AP:
Fascism seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.
So I guess that means the next time someone tells Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, or Sean Hannety that Bush is a "fascist," they won't be able to respond with their usual, "Oh, there you go with the 'Fascist' label again."

Yeah, right. That would require logic or consistency.


In the continuing story known as "My Fear Trumps Your Rights," BBC News reports that security officials at New York's JFK airport forced "an architect of Iraqi descent" to remove a t-shirt with the words "We Will Not Be Silent" printed below some Arabic letters. Seems the officials told Raed Jarrar that "a number of passengers had complained about his T-shirt -- apparently concerned at what the Arabic phrase meant -- and asked him to remove it" or wear an alternate t-shirt, before allowing him to board the plane.

I've got an answer for those "concerned" & curious passengers: None of your fucking business!

I've also got a suggestion for those "concerned" & curious passengers: Why don't you ask him what the phrase means?

And I've got a bit of common-sense advice for those "concerned" & curious passengers: a terrorist, looking to blow up the plane, probably won't wear a T-shirt with the words, "I'm Gonna Blow Up The Plane," written in Arabic, let alone any other language.

My country grows more-and-more unrecognizable with every day. I used to live in a country that stood for liberty, for individual freedom, for respect for all. Now I live in a nation of frightened, stupid, ignorant, selfish people.

I want my country back.


With the Mets cruising to a crushing divisional championship, as well as the best record in the NL, the time for me to start panicking is upon us. You see, now I know the Mets will make the post-season. So I have to begin envisioning all the horrific scenarios whereby they could get knocked out in the first round, causing my season of glory to turn into the proverbial midnight pumpkin.

Why do I have to start doing this, you ask? Well, I'm not only a Mets fan, but a Jets & Rangers fan as well. That enough explanation?

My nightmare goes something like this: The Mets play out the string in September, continuing to demolish their poorer sisters with Tagg Bozied playing first, Oliver Perez tossing the Met's first no-hitter (hat tip to Toasty Joe there), Julio Franco becoming the oldest player to hit for the cycle and ground into 2 double plays in the same extra-inning game, all that fun stuff. And they win 105 games, run away with the NL East by 22 1/2, monopolize the post-season awards, and then lose in three straight to whichever 82-80 team managed to get hot for the last 4 games of the season.

And it's keeping me up nights, I tell you! As any Met fan worth his historical salt knows, our boys pulled that same shit on the juggernaut known as the '73 Reds. An historically powerful team, coming off two World Series appearences in 3 years, just two seasons away from back-to-back titles that put them in the pantheon. Bench, Morgan, Rose, Perez. And the Mets, off the strength of a late season hot streak, carried their pathetic 82-79 record into Riverfront and knocked the Reds out of the post-season.

But is this typical? Expected? Normal? Well, I decided to find out. Sort of. I looked at the post-season for every year since baseball went to the current 3 division/4 teams per league playoff format. I looked for all instances when the wild card team faced the team with the league's best record. This, as you'd expect, happens almost every year, the only exceptions being those seasons when the best record & the wild card come from the same division (in other words, if the Phils earn the WC, they can't face the Mets in the first round). And finally, I isolated those years when the WC team defeated the team with the best record, so I could see the probabilities, as well as identify any patterns such as an especially hot (or cold) team coming in, or overly unrepresentative records versus run differential.

So how many times has the wild card beaten the team with the best record since 1995? 4 times. The '96 Orioles, the '02 Angels, their World Series opponents the '02 Giants, and . . . as you all know, the '00 Mets. Let's look closer, shall we?

1996 Orioles: As we'll see, this is actually the only situation that truly meets my Fear Scenario, where a wild card squad beats a significantly superior foe. Davey's O's finished the year at 88-74, well behind the Yanks. Their pythagorean record? An even more unimpressive 85-77. Even with the '96 AL's league-wide ERA of nearly 5.00, the Orioles runs-allowed figure of 903 is jaw-droppingly bad. That said, the pitchers who actually compiled that gawdy number read like an impressive staff: Mussina, David Wells, Scott Erickson, Jesse Orosco, Roger McDowell, Arthur Rhodes, Randy Myers. What do those guys have in common, other than the fact that they all seemed to pitch in New York? Playoff experience, and playoff success. Lots of it, in fact. Just thumbnailing it, it looks as if only Rhodes and Mussina have ringless fingers from that bunch.

Anyway, they met the Indians in the playoffs, and knocked them out 3-1. The Indians, the team that went 99-62, with a 96-65 pythagorean record, finishing 14 1/2 games ahead of the White Sox. The team that went to the Series the year before, and went again the next year. With Manny, and Thome, and Belle, and Vizquel, and Lofton. But, despite a superior ERA, also a team with a patched-together staff of over-the-hillers like Herschiser, Dennis Martinez & Jack McDowell, plus journeymen like Nagy, Ogea, Assenmacher, Shuey, & Plunk.

And, unsurprisingly, the O's scored 25 runs in 4 games. Next stop, Jeffrey Meier & the Bronx. (Literally, look what's next . . .)

2002 Angels: Flatly stated, they were the best team in the majors in '02, and their title was anything but a fluke. So beating the Yanks is not really a shocker, even though both teams streaked into the playoffs off excellent Septembers. The Angels finished the year in second behind the A's (owners of that ridiculous 20 game win streak), but with a 99-63 record, and the major leagues' best pythagorean record, at 101-61. While the Yanks were nothing to sneeze at with a 103-58 record (and 99-62 pythag), the Angels had the better pitching, yielding 53 fewer runs, off the strength of their deep & talented bullpen: Percival, Weber, K-Rod, & Donnelly. As I remember, after game one the Angel's bulpen was lights-out, and Yankee pitching got rocked (with Wells taking the worst of the beatings) to the tune of 31 runs in 4 games. Ouch.

Unless, like me, you're a Yankee-hater and it's not "ouch," but "yee-haw!"

2002 Giants: Different league, same story. The 95-66 Giants faced off against the 101-59 Braves (the other ML team I loath; ohhh, it was a good October despite my own team's pathetic record). But two things told a different story. First, the great team in question was the Braves, well in the midst of their historic playoff woes. Second, that ancient Greek mathematician. The Giants had the better pythagorean record, 98-63 vs the Braves' 96-64. Not a significant gap, but clearly we didn't have the type of mismatch the Mets'll be facing in round one.

2000 Mets: Not much to review here, I suppose. The Giants ran away the NL West that year, winning the division by 11 games, on the strength of an NL best 97-65 record. They were legit, too, with an identical pythagorean record. The Mets, you'll recall, cruised into the playoffs, locked into second place in the division and holding a huge WC lead for most of the stretch run that year. Their pythagorean record was an unimpressive 88-74, even though they won 94 games.

And we all know what happened. Bobby Jones pitched the greatest game of his life, Edgardo Alfonzo hit everything thrown to him (including 110 MPH fastballs from Robb Nen), Benny Agbayani & Timo Perez forgot they sucked, Shawn Estes forgot how to run the bases (and then got hurt), and John Franco donated his wife to the home plate umpire before game 2 in PacBell. This isn't quite '96 AL or '73 NL, but the Mets weren't as good as the Giants. Not even close.

But, again, the pitching. The Giants rotation of Estes, Ortiz, Livan & Reuter was bad. No other way around it. While Jones, Hampton, Leiter & Reed won't earn its own wing in Cooperstown, they were better than the stiffs the Giants threw out there. And, the Met bullpen in '99 & '00 was both deep and talented. Wendell, Cook & Franco as set-up man was very strong. Armando blew game two, but Nen blew game three at Shea. And the Mets won their blown game, the Giants lost, partly due to bullpen depth.

Whew! So what does this all mean? As usual, I have no freakin idea. But I have a few thoughts. The teams that lost to far worse opponents in the opening round seem to have had poor or shaky pitching. The real weakness on the Mets staff (the staff that leads the NL in ERA, by the way) is starter depth, which matters less in the post-season than it does in the regular season. If Pedro & Glavine are ok, the depth of the Met bullpen should carry them to the LCS against whatever team they face.

Because the Mets can hit a little too.

* * *

A few very brief Random Thoughts from last night's game, and then I'll leave you for the day:

1. The Bulging-Eyed Fish Known as The Kazzer: He stole as many bases in the first 3 innings of last night's game (2), as he stole in 38 games for the Mets this year.


2. Jose Reyes: His slugging percentage (.494) is only 24 points lower than Wright's.

Just sayin'.

3. Endy Chavez!

Just because. And finally . . .

4. Los Dos Carlos: Señor Delgado is hitting 267/364/558. Pretty good, huh? In the same number of at-bats (439), Señor Beltran has 6 fewer singles & 1 fewer triple (!), but . . . 10 more doubles, 6 more homers, 10 more walks, 15 more RBIs, and 30 additional runs scored! The Beltranator has been that much better than pretty good.

So either Phat Albert starts catching up with Big Ryan in homers, or his team better start winning some more. Otherwise, I think a pretty piece of hardware may be making its first-ever appearence in Queens this November. Just after an even more impressive piece makes its third-ever appearence a few weeks earlier.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Last month, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appeared before Congress, he was questioned rather pointedly by Congressman Ron Paul. Remember, the Fed is supposed to be politically neutral, although it seems clear to many that Bernanke, like his predecessor Greenspan, works rather closely with the Administration to speed up and slow down the economy as they see fit.

Anyhow, Paul questioned Bernanke on the so-called, "Working Group on Financial Markets," or as the rest of us call it, the "Plunge Protection Team." Paul also asked him about inflation, economic growth, and monetary & fiscal policy. The transcript is very short and worth checking out. A few highlights (H/T: Daily Reckoning):

On the Plunge Protection Team:

MR. PAUL: . . . but back to the issue of the meeting. You tell me it meets irregularly, but there are minutes kept, or are there reports made on this group?

MR. BERNANKE: I believe there are records kept by the staff. These are staff mostly from Treasury, but also from the other agencies.

MR. PAUL: And they would be available to us in the committee?

MR. BERNANKE: I don’t know. I am sorry, I don’t know.

(Emphasis added). On inflation, economic growth, and real wages:

MR. PAUL: [A member of the Federal Reserve Board] expressed a relief that the economy was weakening, mainly – inferring that the weakening economy would help contain inflation . . . If this assumption is correct – would you agree that this assumption – that a weaker economy is helpful when you are worried about inflation?

MR. BERNANKE: . . . we need to go to a sustainable pace. We need to have a pace which matches the underlying productive capacity; that will probably be a bit less robust than the last few years, because over the last few years we were also reemploying underutilized resources, and going forward we don’t have that slack to put to work.

MR. PAUL: But if you accept the principle, as it seemed to be in this quote, that if you are worried about inflation, you slow up the economy, and then inflation is brought down, it is lessened, it infers that inflation is caused by economic growth, and I don’t happen to accept that, because most people accept the fact that inflation is really a monetary phenomenon. And it also introduces the notion that growth is bad, and yet I see growth as good. Whether it is 3 or 4 or 5 or 6, if you don’t have monetary inflation, we don’t need to worry, because if you have good growth in the marketplace rather than artificial growth, that it is this growth that causes your productivity to increase. You have an increase in productivity, and it does help bring prices down, but it doesn’t deal with inflation . . . There is a lot of concern about real wages versus nominal wages, but I think it is a characteristic of an economy that is based on fiat currency that is just losing its value that it is inevitable that the real labor goes down. As a matter of fact, Keynes . . . believed that you could get real wages down by inflation, that the nominal wage doesn’t come on and keep the nominal wage up, have the real wage come down and sort of deceive the working man.

MR. BERNANKE: Congressman, I agree with you. Growth doesn’t cause inflation; what causes inflation is monetary conditions or financial conditions that stimulate spending which grows more quickly that the underlying capacity of the economy to produce. Anything that increases the economy to produce, be it greater productivity, greater workforce, other factors that are productive, is only positive. It reduces inflation.

(Emphasis added). The import of this? Bernanke knows inflation is caused by an increase in the supply of money & credit. Yet the government churns out a constant flow of bullshit numbers -- PPI, CPI, Core CPI -- that mean nothing, that are fudged from the get-go. Bernanke knows the so-called Plunge Protection Team manipulates markets, thereby causing inflation, but pretends he's not sure what they do, nor knows if the meeting minutes are available.

And finally, Bernanke knows more than anyone that these manipulations, these short-term tweaks of the economy, can have an enormous influence on folks' sense of their own well-being coming November.

When you hear, in October, that "inflation's down," or that "growth is up," or that "real wages have gone up," not to mention any number of reports on housing, on employment: Do Not Believe Them.

Believe what you know to be true. Ask yourself about your wages, your expenses, your savings, your debt, your housing costs, your fuel costs.

And then vote accordingly.


According to LiveScience, a topical application of mint oil -- as used by ancient Greek & Chinese physicians -- eases pain due to its anti-infammatory & skin-cooling properties. As the piece says, new synthetic "compounds [sharing the properties of mint oil] could be especially beneficial to millions suffering with the chronic pain of arthritis and diseases affecting nerve endings."

Check out the article; it sums it all up pretty straightforwardly. What interests me, however, is the absence of a sentence I always seem to see in these types of pieces. You know, the one that reads something like: "Dr. Joe Blow, spokesman of the American Medical Association, told us that rabbit spit has not been proven to be a legitimate cure for genital warts, and reminds people that only a licensed doctor can help you prevent this deadly affliction, blah, blah, blah . . ."

If this mint application research has any legs, the pharmaceuticals industry and it's partner, the AMA, will be in an uproar, doing everything it can to swiftboat these findings. Imagine the harm to Merck if we discover not only that Vioxx is potentially dangerous, but it's less effective than a $20 tube of over-the-counter mint oil?

I can dare to dream, can't I?

(At least til Big Pharma buys the patent for the synthetic oil.)

Monday, August 28, 2006


As August moves into September, with the shorter days & cooler nights of autumn replacing the heat and sunshine of summer, we will witness one of the strangest tours in American history. Yes folks, for the next two weeks we can all feel that chest-thumping pride as we watch the Chief Executive make his long-awaited "Tour Through The Annals Of Failure And Incompetence."

That's right, the Decider will appear today in New Orleans, sight of the disaster that saw the Crescent City sink beneath a flood still leaving it devastated a year later. And in exactly 14 days, the President and all his apologists will conduct the so-bizarre-it's-hard-to-explain, 5th Year Commemoration of 9/11.

Now I'm not gonna go off on all variety of theories as to whether the Administration caused, facilitated, allowed, or ignored any or all of the events of those two horrible days. There are enough conspiracy buffs to fill pages with those stories, so let them run with it if they want. (Here's me supposing that you juuuuuust might find a piece or two today saying as much.)

But I will state without equivocation that neither competence, nor concern, nor honesty, nor leadership were much in evidence during New York's or New Orleans' darkest hours. Reading about a fucking goat, deer-in-headlights gaze on display for all the world to see in one event; gee-tar strumming photo-op & You're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie, during the other.

Not Acceptable.

And certainly not worthy of flag-waving histrionics, faux-patriotic feel-goodism, or pre-election leveraging of fear & pride. He should be ashamed of his performance on both days. The decent thing to do would be to disappear today and on 9/11, and let Americans deal with both events on their own.

Just the way they were left to deal with them when they actually happened.


From the "Ostensibly Surprising" Files, we learn from A.P. that with the National Parks Service set to celebrate its centennnial in 2016, "President Bush directed the National Park Service on Friday to set 'performance' goals for itself for the next 10 years [so as] to have as many bragging rights as possible when the park service turns a century old."

President Bush, pro-park? Could this be? Does he mean let's bore for oil in Yellowstone, or is he playing it straight-up? Let's take a look, shall we?

According to the piece, Bush gave the Park Service until next May to supply him with a list of "signature projects and programs," a list likely to include efforts to:

* Restore about 30 old, decaying buildings in Ellis Island's South Side Hospital Complex, where nearly 12 million immigrants entered the United States from 1882 until 1954.

A nice gesture, I suppose, but what the hell does it have to do with park space? And the bigger question remains, of course, whether these buildings are slated for park use, or for . . . well, you know.

* Construct a $100 million light rail system to cut traffic around the heavily visited South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, plus "greenways" with biking and walking trails.
See, here's where the cynicism always seeps in when the Adminstration gets behind any spending measure. A light rail around the Grand Canyon? Do we really need this? A reported cost of $100 M. What's it really gonna cost? Also, notice that "the plan" seems to call for a primary focus on the light rail system? While the "greenways" for biking & walking -- you know, that crazy "park stuff" -- is an afterthought.

I'll be the first to come out straight and say it: people don't drastically change their stripes after 5 1/2 years (or 60, depending on what we're defining). Leaders who've never given two shits about the environment (whether in nature, in public places, in towns, in parks, overseas) don't wake up one day and decide it's the new priority.

I Don't Trust This.

I'd love to see Congress -- which controls the purse strings according to the Constitution -- block this crap. But that'll never happen. And I plan to do my part in November to demonstrate to them the consequences of their failure to do that job.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


AP's "Business Writer" reported yesterday that an American college student flew from Argentina to Houston with "a stick of dynamite in [his] checked luggage . . . caus[ing] two flights to be diverted, others to be delayed and passengers to be questioned." I find this mildly amusing. Why? Two things:
* Argentinian authorities are apparently "in contact with U.S. officials as they opened their own probe into how the explosive got into the baggage."
Uhhh? I gotta suggestion. Maybe he . . . put it there? Just a guess.
* "There was no indication terrorism was involved in any of the incidents."
And why's that, exactly? Maybe because the suspect is "Howard McFarland Fish," a 21 year-old Lafayette College student, whose father hails from Old Lyme, CT. According to Wikipedia, Old Lyme is over 97% white, and has a per family income of nearly $76,000/yr.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess Howie's neither dark nor scary. In fact, he sounds an awful lot like the man who lives in that big house in Washington, DC. Made of old sandstone, not old limestone, but pretty close. The similarities continue. Howard Fish, the suspect's father, said:
he's "certain" that his son "intended no harm," but only "bought the dynamite while visiting a silver mine while traveling in South America."
I smell a non-sequitur, but nonetheless, he also said:

It's a 21-year-old kid not paying careful attention to the press and thinking it would be cool to have a piece of dynamite.

So let's review the facts on this kid, shall we? He's not up on the news, he's kinda dumb, and he's an idiotic prankster, oblivious to the inconveniences and hassles he brings upon other passengers. Sounds just like someone we know. Plus, he's from Connecticut and carries an old-fashioned, WASP-y sounding name associated with a scion family.

(There's also that probably apocryphal story of the Decider's predilection for blowing up small animals with M-80s as a lad, but who really knows?)

Oh well. Meanwhile, at the tail end of the article, the AP Business Writer goes on to list a series of recent incidents, sounding much like a countdown of "America's Most Fearful & Overzealous Air Marshalls":

• An American Airlines flight from England to Chicago was forced to land in Bangor, Maine, after federal officials "learned of a reported threat." FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said no one was arrested but declined to say if anyone from the flight out of Manchester was in custody.

A "reported threat." But the federal employee just doesn't feel like telling us "if anyone from the flight" was arrested, or anything like that. Report on the incident? Sure. Raise the general fear level? Of course! Reveal any of the actual facts? That's classified; move along.

• A US Airways jet was diverted to Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport after a federal air marshal subdued a disruptive passenger who had pushed a flight attendant, the FBI said. The passenger was undergoing a mental evaluation, and authorities had yet to determine what criminal charges he might face. The twin-engine jet returned to flight three hours later on its trip from Phoenix to Charlotte, N.C.
A passenger now "undergoing a mental evaluation" pushed a flight attendant who probably had the temerity to tell him not to go to the bathroom, but to sit down. So . . . bring in the Feds and delay the flight for three hours.

• A Continental Airlines flight from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Bakersfield, Calif., was held in El Paso, one of its scheduled stops, after the crew discovered a missing panel in the lavatory, authorities said.
Well, there's a real emergency situation. With that panel missing, the whole plane could've broken up on re-entry.

• A utility knife was found on a vacant passenger seat of a US Airways flight that had traveled from Philadelphia to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, state police said. No arrests were made and there were no threats involved, said Master Sgt. J. Paul Vance, state police spokesman.
No arrests . . . because no threats. But a news story in there somewhere. Whoever found that knife on the seat was talking to the press, someway, somehow!

• An Aer Lingus flight from New York to Dublin was evacuated Friday morning during a scheduled stopover in western Ireland following a bomb threat that turned out to be unfounded, officials said.
Unfounded bomb threat. Seems the rule rather than ther exception lately. And saving the best for last . . .

• A United Airlines flight out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was delayed because a small boy said something inappropriate, according to a government official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. "He didn't want to fly," the official said.
That's the inappropriate "something"? Let me be the first to say, I can't blame him. Maybe like the boy who told everyone the emperor wore no clothes, he's the only one to notice these "security" policies have no teeth.

And no brains.

Friday, August 25, 2006


In my constant effort to entertain you, not to mention having no idea what to write about this morning, I now present the first in what might be a Friday Tradition here in the Neighborhood (Or, it won't. I admit my track record on these "Running Themes" is worse than Bush's track record with the truth). Yes, folks, may I present to you, for your coffee-supping enjoyment, the awkwardly-titled, and even more awkwardly conceived . . . Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day.

(And yes, I'm aware that the "Friday . . . Of The Day" construction is completely preposterous, but preposterousness is my goal most of the time).

So, with no further ado, the most-appropriate flick for day one of this inappropriate meme:
Thank God It's Friday
If you've never seen it . . . well, thank god for that fact, and don't do a thing to change it. I haven't seen it in the 28 years since it came out, and I'm planning on keeping that way. I suspect it would fall on the Rocky V side of unwatchable.

But that's not to say I didn't like it when I saw it as a 10 year-old. Cause I did. I actually saw it with my parents, some time in the spring of '78, after the release of Saturday Night Fever, but before Grease. And when I think about it, with Animal House coming that fall, 1978 was a helluva year for me in terms of busting into the "grown-up movie" world.

In retrospect, what the hell were my parents thinking???

I can't remember much about the flick other than lots of disco music, lots of chicks in satiny dresses, and guys with gold chains, leather, poofed-up hair, and all the other accoutrements of that wacky era known as the late-70s. And all I recall in the way of the "plot" was an ingenue played by Donna Summer trying all night to get to the mike to sing her song.

Come to think of it, that's pretty much the whole plot, and the marketing, all wrapped into one. Of course she eventually got the mike, sang Last Dance, and boldly began charting her course to TopOfTheChartsDiscoDiva as the credits rolled.

Finally, check out the credits: The Commodores (including a fully-afro'd Lionel Richie); Debra Winger, fresh off her TV success as Wonder Woman's curvy sister, Drusilla; and Jeff Goldblum, as the owner of the swinging disco where all the fun went down. Still a few years away from breaking into the leading roles he saw in the 80's, I guess it was a step up from the bit parts of the previous years: the guy who "Forgot his mantra" at Tony Lacey's party in Annie Hall, and one of the rapists in the first Death Wish. Oh, the ignominous beginnings of many an actor.

And, oh, the world I grew up to in the 70s: afros, revenge flicks, Lynda Carter in a red, white & blue bikini on a "family show," and Jeff Goldblum trying to remember his mantra at Paul Simon's party in a Woody Allen film. Dazed & Confused, indeed.

And anyway, thank god it's Friday.


I'm really of two minds on this, but the story's worth telling: According to AP, a state court judge in Indiana held three people in contempt of court and ordered community service for two of them. Their offense?

Ringing cellphones.

So why am I of two minds? Because on one hand I hate, and I mean hate, cellphones. I hate when people talk on them in public, I hate that I'm always reachable by family, employers, casual acquaintences. But mostly, I hate the ringing. Set 'em on vibrate people. Please.

But . . . as I said, there's another side to my opinion on this story. As a lawyer, who's occasionally been inside a courtroom, I'm well aware of the incredible deference afforded the men & women in robes who rule the inside of a courtroom: standing when they enter & exit; their prerogative to interrupt lawyers & witnesses whenever they choose; the finality of their decisions; and, of course, the absurd convention of referring to them as "Your Honor," or "The Court."

The Court! Some judges actually use "We" in opinions.

(And I'm talking about one judge opinions.)

We live in the United States. No aristocrats. No genuflection to "Title." Yet a judge rules the court like a king or queen. Inside that court, we are subjects. Believe me. I've never actually conducted a trial, but I've "appeared" in court, and loath though I am to admit it, I've used my share of "May it please the Court . . . ," or "With all due respect to Your Honor, I'd like to offer an alternative reading . . . ," and all that blah, blah, blah.

But, you know what? Since I'm the judge here, my cellphone issues are gonna take the day. And whether or not one sees the judge as Sovereign Of The Court, it's just disrespectful to everyone letting a cellphone ring in a place where others are focusing on what's going on: the movies, a conference, a restaurant.

And letting the phone ring -- three times in this case -- is truly "contempt" of court.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


From the "I'm Not Really Sure What To Make Of This" Files, we learn from BBC News that the owner of the Hitler's Cross Restaurant refuses to yield to pressure from Jewish groups in his native Mumbai, India, and will not change the name of his establishment.

No, not made up; real news story. Look:

According to the owner, Puneet Sabhlok, his "customers are not complaining about the name, they are very amused by it. Just like Hitler wanted to conquer the world, I want to conquer at least my area through the food served in my restaurant."

But wait, just wait! It gets worse.
Mr Sabhlok told reporters he wasn't "promoting Hitler in any manner," nor does he "have any pictures of the German Nazi leader or decor related to him."

But when questioned about the huge Hitler poster at the front door -- uhhh, that'd be this one:

. . . Mr Sabhlok insisted that "one of the 700 invitees who attended the opening" of the restaurant put it there, but he "pulled it off later."

He can name his restaurant whatever he wants so far as I'm concerned. But here's to wishing for a violent case of food poisoning for one of his non-complaining customers, followed by Sabhlok's ruin, bankruptcy, and rebirth as a snail.

Mazel Tov, Puneet.
Update, 3:37 PM, EDT: Undoubtedly shaken to his very core upon hearing the news that yours' truly had joined the fray, AP reports that a chastened Puneet Sabhlok decided to change the name of his restaurant, as well as "
remove Hitler's name and the Nazi swastika from billboards and the menu."

Well ain't that swell.

Although Sabhlok has not yet decided on a new name, insiders tell us that among the leading candidates for the new moniker are: Pol's Pot Roast, Stalin Business Even Without The Old Name, Tutsi Rolls, & Mao's Masala.


Following the long-awaited vote of "leading astronomers," AP reports that Pluto, named after a beloved-cartoon dog, has been kicked out of the Solar System. Heretofore, Pluto will be known as a "Dwarf Planet" or a "Minor Planet." Press Secretary Tony Snow, speaking on behalf of the Adminstration, declared it "a Rogue Planet."

In recognition of this dubious honor, Iran, Iraq & North Korea granted the pariah planet instant membership in the prestigious Axis Of Evil. Unsurprisingly, Sudan, Cuba, Venezuela & Bolivia -- all on the Axis wait list for nearly five years -- did not take the news quietly, claiming that Pluto was being granted "special favors" for "obvious political reasons."


Apologists for the bumbling Administration and it's Congressional lap dogs have moved into a new phase of spin the past couple weeks. I call it the "Vote For Hawks Or You'll Die Strategy," and it's everywhere you look lately. Under this new technique, which Joe Lieberman proved is not just for Republicans, the Iraq War-supporting incumbant and/or his stooges in the press will tell you, in no uncertain terms, "If You Vote For My America-Hating Opponent In November, You Will Suffer A Painful, Hideous, Horrifying Death."

Check out some of the hysterical (take that word anyway you wish) language busted out by Stanley Kurtz, in this piece from yesterday's National Review (Tip o' the hat to The Cunning Realist):
We don’t have the luxury of sitting on our hands in the next election. We don’t have the luxury of punishing slack Republican legislators on the theory that this will somehow produce a tougher conservative line in 2008. We don’t have the luxury of all this because a nuclear Iran is bearing down on the United States, while our country stands paralyzed by its own divisions. You can blame Iraq if you like. I blame the Democrats’ Vietnam syndrome. But no matter who you blame, the sad fact of the matter is, the president’s hands are tied. The president cannot confront Iran with a credible threat of force, much less actually strike it, without greater domestic support . . . A nuclear Iran is likely to give or lend nuclear weapons to terrorists, resulting in an undeterrable nuclear strike against an American city or cities . . . A Democratic victory this fall will solidify that situation, leaving Iran to race to nuclear capability before 2009 when a new president–especially a possible Republican president with greater political capital–accedes to power. So don’t sit there and mope. Get out and vote. Yes, we are paralyzed right now. However important it is to keep the option of a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities on the table, America’s internal political conflict has taken it off the table. Accounts from both the left and right say we face a nuclear-armed Iran that cannot be deterred on the model of the Cold War. Either we get out and vote, or we’re left to face down this menace with both hands tied behind our back.
(Emphases added). The "problem" isn't State Department/Defense Department incompetence, nor is the "problem" lack of accountability, inflexible military strategy & tactics. Nope. The problem isn't even militant Islam. No! The problem is those damn America-haters back home, "tying the hands" of the brave leaders in Foggy Bottom & Arlington. Didn't we hear that one about 35 years ago?

Continuing our journey through the weird world of "The Pro-Bush Blogosphere," here's more fun & frivolity from Protein Wisdom (Tip to TBogg this time), responding to critiques of the latest barrage of Bush bullshit known as Monday's press conference:
As you’ll see, Bush remains (as is his signature stance) determined and resolute, but for some of the GWOT’s most stalwart early supporters, steady conviction is no longer enough. What they want to see is action—and for many, the US / Israeli capitulation to Hezbollah via the UN cease fire agreement, coupled with Iran’s blustery and confident intransigence, is sending all the wrong signals . . . if all we can manage politically at this point, even with someone as stubborn Bush in office, is to declare victory by staying the course—then our adversarial press and the cynical opportunists on the left (with an assist from the nativists on the paleocon right) will have shown the world that America is indeed the weak horse, crippled by its own inner tensions and power struggles, and by the soft transnational leftism that, by controlling the narrative and sowing seeds of manipulated dissent, pushes us ever closer to its goal of turning the US into a kind of European satellite nation and prevents us from committing to the kind of difficult, long-term projects that may just affect the kind of change necessary to stave of an otherwise inevitable worldwide conflagration brought about by an emboldened and resolute Islamism.
(Emphases added). Whoa! Now them's some fancy doses of rhetoric from Mr. Protein. Crippled by its own inner tensions! Controlling the narrative and sowing seeds of manipulated dissent! Day-umm. Makes me think of some of the "bad writing" Orwell spoke of (read: mocked) in Politics and the English Language.

But the one I really love is adversarial press, meant as an example of something that's hurting us. Man, oh man, where have we come to? All I can say regarding an adversarial press is: "If only."

Finally, I'd like to end with a comment someone posted under the TBogg piece I alluded to earlier. Her user name is "D. Sidhe," and here's what she said:
Oh, no. These assholes don't get to unshackle themselves from Bush and his failed policies, to include any wars he's already started and any he plans on starting, and retreat back into "We're Reagan Conservatives!" until they apologize publicly for voting for the son of a bitch twice, and do some significant community service, and then sign papers saying they will never, ever again speak in a room with more than three people who are not of their own immediate family.

Ideally I want to see their asses painting up a bunch of schools in Iraq, and I want these bastards to pay for the paint themselves.

Jesus, the mess these people have made of the planet, and we're supposed to trust that there's some reason for optimism and accept that it's all the media's fault, that the liberals caused all this and they were just sitting there watching in passive voice? Screw them. Screw them all.

The whole system is so broken I don't think we'll ever fix it, and they're already making plans to announce that Bush just didn't kill enough people because he was too compassionate and too scared of the liberal media.

Screw them. Tie Bush around their necks, tie Iraq around their necks, like a fucking millstone, and let's watch the whole conservative, paleo or neo, sink deep into the ocean trenches. You failed, boys. Failed badly.

And one of the consequences of failing this badly is that you have to shut up and let actual adults take charge and clean this shit up. I don't give a rat's ass whether you're ready to live with it. Sit down, and don't raise your hand again until you have something useful to say.


In yet another chapter of the ridiculous story called "Modern Governments Doing Your Due Diligence For You . . . Selectively," we learn from American Free Press that "district judge Gladys Kessler will force tobacco giants such as Philip Morris USA to switch to less loaded descriptions for their brands."

"Loaded descriptions"? Yeah, I'm wondering too. Let's take a look, shall we? According to the article:
so-called descriptor terms on cigarette packets such as "lights", "low tar" and "mild" will be outlawed from next January under a recent US ruling.
So, if I understand correctly, the judge has determined that a cigarette containing less tar than a regular smoke can't be labeled "low tar" because it's . . . uh, since the meaning of . . . uhhh . . .

Ok, I'll confess. I don't get it. We "allow" soft drink manufacturers to label sugar-free soda "Diet" or "Light." We "permit" brewers to label beers containing fewer carbs, or less calories, or diminished alcohol content as "Light" or "Lite." We "allow" produce growers to call food "organic" so long as it doesn't exceed a legislatively-determined quantity of chemical ingredients. Right?

But cigarettes -- determined to be Evil & Bad & Wrong -- can't be labeled as anything other than "Deadly," I guess. Why? Well, according to anti-tobacco lobbyists, "terms [such as "light"] have been key to keeping smokers, particularly women and teenagers, smoking despite the well-publicized hazards of their habit" (emphasis added). Well, since those Little Ladies can't be trusted to make sound decisions, guess we'd better legislate & rule in order to protect them from their own desires.

Driving can be hazardous too. Better keep the womenfolk out of cars; they might get hurt.

I don't smoke (quit 4 years ago), I think it's a miserable habit, I have no love for the sneaky Big Tobacco companies, and I think it's probably in everyone's interest to quit. But -- and to me this is the crux of it -- since cigarette packs contain a litany of terrifying warnings about their danger, and since the American people have known for 42 years that smoking can cause cancer, why are we continuing to regulate what tobacco companies can & can't do in order to sell their product?

I know the answer to that (politics; playing to a self-righteous electorate), but it disturbs me to no end. So long as the product in question isn't banned (and it shouldn't be), then we have no business interfering with the industry's ability to market itself.

Calling a cigarette "Light" isn't the same thing as calling it "Safe." One's a lie, the other's a description.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The 2006 hurricane season seems to be brewing after a pleasant break from last season's horror. All snark aside, you'd think the combination of the Katrina debacle plus upcoming midterm elections would mean a strong response should this, or another monster, make landfall in a major population center.

But I've learned to expect the unexpected from our officials.

(Note: the storm in the picture is not Tropical Storm Debby. Or maybe it is. But if so, I'm not aware of it.)


(The) Fear strikes yet another country. From Reuters:
The pilot of an aircraft belonging to U.S. airline Northwest turned back his plane to Amsterdam on Wednesday, Schiphol airport said. Dutch news agency ANP said two fighter planes accompanied the plane back to the airport and quoted a police spokesman as saying a number of people had been taken off the plane.
Looks like this guy might've spent a few too many hours partaking in some Northern Lights, or another of Amsterdam's finest.

Paranoia + Planes. A volatile combination in today's world.


Some (very) brief thoughts on last night's Met game, which saw The Boys storm back from a 7-1 deficit to win in their final turn at-bat, 8-7.

* I'm not sure whether I like "Grand Slamming" Carlos, or "Game Winning" Carlos more right now. But I'll open it up to a vote. Assuming anyone comments (not a safe assumption), whichever Carlos receives the most mentions/allusions/references/marriage proposals will be declared "Carlos of the Day" for August 23. Simple.

* {Shhhh, nobody looking? Ok . . .} Here's my little insider's tip for you. I'm telling you, you can take this one to the bank: This Pujols guy? On the Cards? He's gonna be good. I juuuust have that feeling. Trust me. I think he's worth trying to grab for your fantasy team.

* Since the Met's loss to the Blue Jays on June 24, when he went 1-for-3 with a 3B, a BB, 1 R & 1 RBI, David Wright has played 48 games. That's two months, as of tomorrow, for those of you playing along at home. 1/3 of a season. And his numbers over that stretch? Not pretty:
174 AB, 41 H, 12 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 20 BB, 28 R, 24 RBI, & 4 SB w/ 2 CS. That works out to 236/314/374.
And, no, he hasn't had a day off in that stretch, which included the All Star Game and the stupid Home Run Derby. Just sayin'.

* Last night's game had me feeling a way I haven't felt since 1986. I'm not kidding. The Mets were down 7-1 in the 5th inning, Maine clearly didn't have it, Pujols looked like he could've taken a busted tennis racquet to the plate and hit an overripe cantaloupe thrown by Walter Johnson over the wall, no one other than Delgado seemed to swinging well at all . . . and yet I wasn't concerned at all.

I'm not saying I was confident. I wasn't. I'm not saying I wasn't pissed they'd fallen so far behind. I was. But somehow, very much like I used to feel watching the '86 squad, that 6 run lead didn't look safe to me. I just figured they'd probably climb back into the game somehow: Delgado was swinging well, Jeff Weaver was on the hill for the Cards, Flooper & Izzy waiting in the pen. It just didn't seem all that bad.

So when they won, I was happy, I was excited, and I was pleased. But I wasn't nearly as surprised or as giddy as you'd expect after a 7-runs-in-4-innings comeback. Helluva team, folks. Helluva team.


AP reports that the number of military personnel in Iraq has climbed back to 138,000. Up to 2,500 Marines will be recalled, although "there is no cap on the total number who may be forced back into service in the coming years as the military helps fight the war on terror."

Following a decline in troop strength to 127,000 earlier this summer, "the number of U.S. troops in Iraq has climbed back to 138,000, driven up in part by the need to control the escalating violence in Baghdad and the decision to delay the departure of an Alaska-based Army brigade." The latest Marine recalls followed Bush's decision to authorize them, on July 26.

Not to attempt calling bullshit when I'm not 100% sure of what I speak, but hasn't there been "violence in Bagdad" pretty much since 2003? Because a brigade (1,500-3,000 troops) is being delayed, that explains an increase of 11,000 in a couple months? There's no cap on recalls?

As Marine Col. Guy A. Stratton said, explaining the troop redeployments said: "Since this is going to be a long war, we thought it was judicious and prudent at this time to be able to use a relatively small portion of those Marines to help us augment our units."

Long war, huh? Question is, in what country?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


BBC News reports that "Iranian troops" have attacked and seized a Romanian oil rig in the Persian Gulf.

I have no idea what to make of this story, and this is one of those bits of news that fly into our brains hundreds of times daily. It could have legs longer than Tyra Banks, or it could fade into the ether before lunch. I have no idea.

All I know, nothing good can come out of this. WWI started because a Serbian teenager shot an Austrian octogenarian. On the balance, this one sounds a lot more serious. But part of me wishes Ceausescu was still alive for the latest contretemps. Imagine Crazy Nicolai & A-Jhad engaging in the war of words over this one!


Pancetta poses in the backyard. Awww, my wittle cutey . . .

Then, here's Baby Back, acting shy as always. Come on, where's Daddy's little girl hiding . . .

And Bratwurst proves that all the warthogs are cute as buttons in this family. What a shainer punim . . .


From the "Senior Science Writer," we learn of the "wild week" spent by astronomers, as they debated once-and-for-all the definition of the term "planet," and whether Pluto qualifies.

No, this one's a real story.

I can't decide whether to file this one under, "How Many Astronomers Can Dance On The Surface Of An Asteroid?" or "How Cool Is It To Be So Geeky That This Type Of Thing Is Fun?" And I'm not joking, I really can't make up my mind. Look back through some of my posts: I actually spend time thinking about who's the best player in baseball through half a season; or whether evolution is aided or impeded by human interference; or if celebrity worship is a cause or an effect in our culture. I like this type of thing.


So, in acknowledgement of my agnosticism on the topic, I'll defer to regular reader & commenter, DED, of the Dedly Blog. According to him:
And you may have heard about the big planet classification debate going on at the International Astronomers Union (IAU). What does this mean to the average person? Absolutely nothing. Really, it's not important at all and I'm a space enthusiast. While I think Ceres should remain an asteroid and Pluto should remain a planet, it's all semantics in the grand scheme of things. And the debate won't end here. When the New Horizons spacecraft arrives at Pluto in 2015 and we get to see the first ever pictures of that world and it's moon/companion, Charon, the debate should flare anew. But the debate is moot. So long as we're "grounded" here on Earth, how we categorize these distant places means nothing. When we're finally colonizing these other worlds we can debate their relative "planet-ness" then.
(Emphasis added). So there you have it, straight from the musings of a man who cares. The verdict: this one goes in the "How Many Astronomers Can Dance On The Surface Of An Asteroid?" Files. Got an argument? Take it to DED.


Breaking News:

According to Federal Aviation officials, air marshalls delayed an American Airlines flight from Atlanta to Phoenix after passengers became frightened at the presence of "scary, dark people" in seats 13A, B & C. After a 45 minutes delay, the three "scary, dark passengers" voluntarily left the plane, which taxied & took off 10 minutes later.

Rajeev Jawadhan, 41, of Athens, GA, told our reporters that he decided to leave the plane with his wife, Deepa and his 19 year-old son, Mark, after realizing the other passengers were so frightened, the plane would never leave the ground.

"My son is student at Univerity of Arizona, and my wife and I were flying there to see him back for junior year," Jawadhan explained. "My wife wants to go to Grand Canyon. But other passengers thought we were Muslim! Muslim, bahh! I am Hindu. Such an insult."

According to Shirley Johnson of Acworth, GA, "We all saw three scary, dark people talking to each other. One of them, the youngest, kept staring at a few of the female passengers & at one of the flight attendents. Plus, he spoke perfect English while the older ones had heavy middle eastern accents. We thought that was suspicious and reported it to the captain."

"I tell you those three scary, dark people were terrorists," said Fred Borneas of Atlanta. "I used to work in intelligence when I was in the Army, in Germany. Lotta Arabs and other Islams in Germany. And Turkeys too. I know em when I see em. These three were scary & dark, and they were terrorists."

The air marshalls to whom we spoke, on condition of anonymity, told us the only solution to this growing problem: "Segregated flights. When people book their flights they'll need to check a box similar to that on the census form: white, black, hispanic, other. If someone checks the box for 'dark & scary,' they'll fly on a separate plane. To be on the safe side, 'other' should go on the alternate flight too. Of course that plane will probably fly only once every couple days, and'll cost more, but that's the way it is. Otherwise, take the bus."

The Greyhound spokeman to whom we spoke told us that plan would be fine, so long as "the dark, scary people sit in the back."

Monday, August 21, 2006


AP reports that President Bush will speak to the press this morning, ostensibly to discuss the Israel-Hizbollah ceasefire, and to announce plans for humanitarian aid to Lebanon. No other details are available, other than the following from Tony Snow:
The President will speak to the press later this morning. Although we make no announcements regarding subject matter, we assure you that nothing the President says will be true in any way, and all statements of fact or policy will be completely denied at a later date.
Honestly, while acknowledging the absolute requirement of press access to the President, I wonder why any reporter even bothers asking a question. The "answer" will invariably involve invocations of "freedom" of "democracy" of "good vs. evil," with no chance of honest discourse regarding the economy, foreign policy, or executive power.

Maybe the Colbert approach is the only way to get close to an honest answer, because at least the question'll be such a change-up, Bush won't be able to give the standard paint-by-numbers answer. No wonder there's been a growing backlash against "fake journalists," as well as the usual rants against bloggers.

I think it's time for Ali G or Borat to sit down with Bush.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually it's mostly good: Los Dos Carlos heating up faster Dwight Gooden's crack pipe, Heilman deciding to throw his fastball again, John Maine & El Duque imitating a top-notch 1-2 punch. Lots o' postives. Not to mention a sweet moment at Shea on Saturday night, as we witnessed a parade of aging jocks, half of whom seemed to have started the celebration well before hitting the field (which makes it different than any August game back in '86, how exactly?).

The negatives: another pitcher possibly biting the dust, and David Wright's continuing metamorphosis into Richie Hebner. Or Joe Foy. Or Roy Staiger.

Not much to say about Glavine. He's 40 years-old, and this can happen when your number two starter's 40. If he comes back, great. If not, well hopefully Oliver Perez's last two starts in Norfolk are no fluke. He K'd 11, walked 2, and yielded 1 hit in 7 innings Friday night. Starter depth (and quality) has been a problem all year. This just affects the degree. We knew the bats would have to be thundering come October. Which leads me to . . .

. . . the tragic saga of David "I Can't Even Give Him a Nickname Anymore" Wright. I know I've pounded on this issue for a while now, and you know what? I ain't stopping. He needs time off. Whether from exhaustion, frustration, or whatever, the man's in a slump. His post-All Star Break numbers are now 261/348/387, with 11 XBHs in 119 ABs, following 45 in 339 before the break. Breaking down July & August versus April-June is even more stark.

Young Mr. Wright's even in a cliche slump. That's all the proof you need, right? Look at this. Following the 2-for-4 late last week, that had everyone declaring his slump was over, he spoke to the press:
I recognized pitches better. When you're struggling, you're anxious. I just tried to relax. You just take a deep breath. Working deep in the count is my game. When you're struggling, you want to swing at everything. You want to hit the first pitch you see real hard. I felt good. I felt confident. I wasn't giving away at-bats.
There's nothing wrong with that, it's certainly "B-" quality. But from the young man we've come to expect greatness from? He needs to pick it up some. The two phrases about "struggling" indicate that he is, indeed, struggling. Those lines ruin his flow, cut into the standard rat-tat-tat-tat cadence of a standard David Wright Cliche-fest. If he was truly out of his slump, he'd have said the following:
I recognized pitches better. I just tried to relax. You want to hit the first pitch you see real hard. I felt good. I felt confident. I wasn't giving away at-bats. I'm back. I'm in a groove. I'm bagging the first chick that talks to me tonight. I'm young. I'm rich.
See the difference? To the point. No wasted words. But the real quotation, with all the rambling about anxiety, about struggles? You kidding me? I want my David Wright back.

And for that, he needs a Rest. If you want me to stop talking about this same boring topic day-after-day, you'd better talk to Willie, and make it happen. Do it for Wright, do it for the Mets, do it for yourselves, for goodness sake. If Wright's in the lineup Tuesday night, I may have to do something rash.

And nobody wants that.

* * *

Saturday Night. Pretty cool, huh? I'll assume all of you saw the festivities. It would've been nice to see Ray Knight, Roger McDowell, Maz & Davey with the rest of the guys, but what can you do? I'm sure you've all read some nice, compelling articles about the event. Metsradamus has a nice piece about it, for instance.

But as much as I love the '86 Mets (and love em I do), they were a team of mutts, of miscreants, of scrappers and brawlers. They didn't take themselves too seriously (well, Keith did, but no one else did), and that's part of what I loved about them. So, if I may, here with my thoughts about Saturday night's festivities:

Frank Cashen: The architect. The man who pulled off the best Met trade of my lifetime: Gary Carter for Hubie, Fitzgerald, Winningham & Youmans. Nice to see him there. But admit it: you were thinking, ummm . . . bad things when you saw him, looking old & frail, sitting out there in the damn rain for a half hour.

I'm glad not to have seen his name in the papers the next morning or two.

Ed Hearn: Ed Huge! Oh, my.

Danny Heep: Always a favorite of mine, a "professional hitter," whatever the hell that means. The number one pinch hitter on your team, assuming your team is good, will always be described as a "professional hitter."

Anyway, Heep looks like a doctor on a nighttime soap: complete with his George Hamilton-esque tan, Danny's not only a professional hitter, but he's turned into a "Handsome" man.

Doug Sisk: For old time's sake, the crowd showered him with a hearty round of boos. Doing his part, Sisk walked the first two batters he faced, before inducing a double play ball.

Rick Aguilera: Along with HoJo & Teufel, Aggie was the first member of the "Heartily Cheered for what he did after '86," to be introduced. And in Aggie's case, most amazingly, he was cheered for becoming a stellar closer, and World Series winner, with another team. Cheer all you want in '06, Met fans, but this guy is our BK Kim. If Shiraldi does his job, then Aggie's known as "the guy who gave up the fucking, world series-losing homer to Henderson."

I'm not saying I'd boo him or anything, but he didn't deserve that cheer. That's my take on it, and I'm sticking to it.

Kevin Mitchell: Somehow looks as good as I've seen him, despite continuing to gain weight annually since . . . uhhh, eating himself out of the game. I think he'll be the subject of one of those "Obese Man Removed From Home By Crane" stories some day. Sit tight; it'll happen.

Tim Teufel: Looks exactly the same. I was half expecting him to start doing the Teufel Shuffle as he walked onto the field. Also half hoped Howie would say, " . . . and it was his horrendous error in game one vs the Sox that ruined Ron Darling's incredible game," but knew it wouldn't happen.

But wouldn't that have been more fun? Everyone was thinking it anyway, right? They were a humorous bunch. Shoulda' gone there. Anyway, no one wants to admit it now, but he was pretty much hated in '86. It was his excellent hitting year in '87 (.300+, 29 2Bs & 14 HRs in half a season) that won the fans over.

HoJo: Big cheers which is fine by me, even though he was a minor player on that squad. But he was one of their kingpins from '87-'91, with a few awesome years in the mix. Plus, he hit two of the biggest homers in '86: the one off Worrell early on that showed the Cards they had no chance; plus, he ended the epic 14 inning game against the Reds with a bomb off Ted Power.

Rafael Santana: After his introduction, he grabbed the umbrella and popped-up the first pitch to second base.

Wally Backman: With his pot belly, combed back greying hair, and those wild "Backman eyes," Wally looks like a crazy uncle you see once a year at a family barbeque.

"Mommmmmm, Uncle Wally's drinking the lighter fluid again."

"Shut up, kid. Lemme just have one more sip. You don't wanna get your Uncle Wally in trouble, do ya? Here, have a beer. Heh, heh, heh, heh. Now lemme show you something else . . . "

Bobby Ojeda: He's become the "sorta sad guy who tells all the cliched, talkshow versions of the same old stories." From a piece I read the night before the ceremony:
* On LoDuca's ongoing tabloid woes involving his harem of young ladies: "Had Lo Duca played with us, it wouldn’t have even been a footnote."

* On the '86 Mets legacy: “People are still interested in the ’86 Mets. We’re going to be popping up in headlines until we’re on Social Security.”

* On the continuing partying prowess of this famously hard-partying team: “These guys are boring as hell. I talked with Keith Hernandez and Teufel and Darling. And I told them, ‘Quite honestly, I don’t want to go to dinner with you. You’re old, fat, ugly. You have two beers and want to go to sleep.’”
Uhhhh, ok Bobby. Whatever you say. Just put down the garden sheers and stay off the boat.

Lenny Dykstra: They should've introduced him later in the ceremony. There's no one player who had more to do with the Mets winning it all than Dykstra. He hit well in the LCS and the Series, and had a bunch of key hits: the homer off Dave Smith, the homer off The Can, the triple in the 9th of game six in Houston. He was The Man.

Anyway, he looked like a slightly older version of the same Lenny we knew so well. The crowd really responded, and it was wonderful to see that same slack-jawed face, that same shambling gait, that same goofy expression as he lapped up the love the crowd bestowed on him. I sat on my couch beaming, enjoying the hell out seeing my man Lenny back on the field at Shea, collecting what he earned 20 years ago. He lived for this back in '86. Glad to see him get it.

Jesse Orosco: Another kingpin in the championship. Lights out in the World Series. Unhittable. And with that wacked-out facial hair he's sporting now, he looks like he might be related to Jose Valentin. I think we could use him out of the pen against lefties in October.

Someone look into this.

Mookie: As Howie said: the Mets all-time leader in triples and steals.

As Mike says: not when Jose Reyes is done.

And as Mike also says: Keith, if you're too drunk to make a decent speech, that's your right & it certainly fits with the memories of this team. But don't pass the microphone to . . . Mookie!

Keith: Also notice he had his yellow collar sticking completely out of his jersey. Oh, Keith. And let's make no bones about this: he was bombed when he stepped onto the field.

Gary Carter: What's up with that haircut? And no surprise to see who, among all the guys, helped Cashen back into the golf cart after the ceremonies.

Anyway, nice to hear him introduced as "Hall of Famer, Gary Carter."

Darryl: Wow. What a moment. And he didn't even brawl with Keith before the team photo.

But seriously, that was a Lovefest. More than any moment in all my years as a Met fan, and as a baseball fan, that was the moment when I really saw Darryl for the sadly wounded child that he is. He was awash in emotion, his smile showing the deep desire for affection, for connection, that he always sought from the fans, but never could hold onto.

And, of course, starting Sunday morning, his life returned to whatever struggle "Being Darryl Strawberry" is these days. But for a few minutes in the drizzle at Shea, Darryl Eugene Strawberry felt the love. The love the fans seemed to be willingly showering upon him, as if to say, "Don't give up, Darryl. We remember you & all that could have been. Keep going."

I know the man is more responsible than anyone else for the litany of troubles that have followed him through life. But I was happy for him. I hope he can hang on to it.


Joe Rosenthal, the guy who snapped the famous shot of the five Marines & one sailor raising the US flag over Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, died yesterday at 94. It's a famous photo, and Rosenthal gained lifelong fame for it. Hard to argue.

What I've always found fascinating about the story, though, are some of the misconceptions surrounding it. The facts: Marines invaded Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, finally capturing the tactically-essential peak of Mt. Suribachi on February 23, after four days of intense combat. It was at this point that Rosenthal captured the famous image.

But . . . this was the second flag-raising on that sight, the first flag deemed too small, too hard to see from the beach below the peak. And Rosenthal also took another photo on that beach later in the day, in a completely posed shot. But the famous picture, while the second of two flag-raisings on that spot, was impromptu. Rosenthal wasn't working with the Marines. His open admission that the shot on the beach (the so-called "Gung-ho" shot) was posed only added to the longtime legend that the flag-rasing shot was as well.

But the most commonly-held misconception is also the most bittersweet: the taking of Mt. Suribachi didn't represent the culmination of the battle, anymore than taking Iwo Jima meant the War in the Pacific had ended (the slaughter on Okinawa was still to come). Following the tactical victory on Mt. Suribachi, the Battle for Iwo Jima raged on until well into March.

Which leads me to the saddest of all the misconceptions: of the six men pictured in that most-famous of WWII photos, three of them didn't leave the island of Iwo Jima alive. Both the leader of the unit and the fellow at far right (who famously squats down, straining to direct the flag pole into the ground) failed to survive the week, while the third was killed by a sniper late in the battle as the Marines were well into their "secure the island" phase.

The photo became -- and remains -- a symbol of victory. A testament to the efforts of the regular guys who invaded island-after-island in the Pacific, procuring them at enormous cost. And somehow, I find especially powerful symbolism in the twin facts of the photo: it captured that important victory, yet half of the men in that most famous of pictures didn't live long enough to revel in their fame, or even see the victory the photograph came to represent.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


AP reports that biologists in California are concerned that a recent "invasion" of giant-sized oysters into San Francisco Bay could threaten the ecosystem, and "efforts to restore native species." In fact, "wildlife officials quickly organized an effort to remove the unwelcome mollusks and hope they can eliminate them before they harm the bay ecosystem" (emphasis added).

I'm no biologist -- and I welcome any input from folks who actually know what they're talking about -- but the wildlife officials' plan strikes me as the real interference with the ecosystem, with evolution. Who are we to decide that the stronger species shouldn't get to dominate its environment? At what point does our "tweaking" of the natural world become just as meddlesome as killing off whales or wolves? We've come to agree that it's wrong to capriciously drive a species to extinction, but we seem to think it's just fine to prevent nature from doing so in its own course.

If we could go back 60M years, would we step in to prevent the extinction of the dinosaurs?

Any thoughts?

Friday, August 18, 2006


Just a couple Quick Hits (aka, a stroll through my newsreader) to get the morning started:

*** Unfortunately Worded Yahoo! News Headline Of The Day:
Letter Threatens To Blow Up Taj Majal
That's one bad-ass letter, huh? "P"? "Y"? "E"? Specifics, please!

This reminds me of Sesame Street or the Electric Company, or one of those other shows back on PBS from the distant days of my youth. "This episode was going to brought to you by the letter 'P' but since 'P' is now in Gitmo, this episode will instead be brought to you by the letter 'L.'"

*** I Thought Siegfried & Roy Did The Animal Act, And Barry Writes The Songs That Make The Whole World Sing? For the love of god, check out this picture of Barry Manilow, in the news because he hurt his hip or something, and now he can't sing his cheesy classics in Vegas for a few weeks:

His hip's the least of his worries. He doesn't alter his appearence a bit, I think Montecore might head to the wrong casino and make his move.

*** From the "Oh Great, As If We Needed Another Reason For Parents To Just Stick The Kids In Front Of The Damn Idiot Box All Day Long" Files, we learn from AP that:
TV Found To Be A Painkiller For Children
It's the Pain-in-the-Ass-Killer-For-Parents aspect that concerns me.

"Mommy, I have a headache."

"Go watch some TV!"

*** According To Reuters:
North Korea "could now be preparing its first test of a nuclear bomb, U.S. media cited U.S. officials as saying."
Say what? Could be preparing to test a nuclear bomb according to US media based on what US officials said. Uhhh, I'm no sceintist, but that one seems juuuuuust a bit below the probability threshhold.

Of course, next time Bush conducts a press conference, this becomes:
North Korea, a member of the evil-doers, of the, uh, Axis of Evil, under the directions of its evil leader, Kim Jong Il, will launch a fully-armed nuke-u-lar device tomorrow. Amer'ca is, we're gonna be, we're prepared for this, and we will send, by invasion, we're sending 35,000 of our troops across the DMZ tonight. Y'all gonna be safe. But it's very dangerous, the most dangerous threat, ya know, that we've faced yet. So be prepared, be frightened, and, uh, be terrified. But y'all are safe. Amer'ca will protect you.

*** They Only Did It Cause Of Fame, Who . . . ?

According To BBC, British Recording Giant, EMI, Has Signed A Deal With Software Giant, Microsoft, To Do Something With Some I-Pod Type Of Device.

If you're curious about the details, check out the article. I don't care about this sort of thing. What I do care about, however, is determining the percentage of 30-59 year-olds who will sing (aloud or in their heads), "Eee-emmm-eyyyyyyyyye," before sneering & making a "dah-dah-dah" guitar riffing sound, within 15 seconds of reading the headline.

Hey, don't get mad at me; it's not a bad song to have in your head, is it?

And my guess is 43%. Not everyone knows the tune. But if they do . . . no chance of escape. None!

*** Yahoo! News Headline Of The Day That Pisses Me Off:
More Questions Arise In JonBenet Case
Yeah, I got two questions myself: Didn't this fucking case happen like 10 years ago. And, can we please stop hearing about it all day long now?

And finally . . .

*** From BBC News, We Learn That The Economy Isn't The Only Thing Growing Real Fast In China:
China Warned Over Growing Obesity: People In China Are Becoming Overweight At An Alarming Rate
I guess capitalism, democracy, & debt aren't the only things we're spreading to the world. McDonalds seems to doing just fine too.