Thursday, December 31, 2009

Convenient Justice is Not Justice

An open and impartial judicial system is a cornerstone of any democracy. No one is guaranteed a perfect trial, but as much transparency as possible in the courtroom is necessary for building trust in the system, especially for a nation that likes to hold itself up as an example to the world as often as does the United States.

That’s why it is confusing and confounding to see any disagreement about whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should be tried in federal court, or by special tribunal. Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an Amsterdam-to-Detroit plane on Christmas Day, is a criminal. He was caught in the act with multiple witnesses. Super-secret intelligence gathering techniques will not be exposed by his public trial. (Why we’d be worried about exposing these super-secret intelligence gathering techniques in this case is questionable, since they had nothing to do with stopping him.) Try him in open court. A conviction is likely; I doubt a jury made up of the twelve primary contributors to DailyKos would exonerate this guy. This is how to show the rest of the world our open system not only functions as well or better than anything they could come up with, and we are not afraid to trust it.

Dick Cheney et al want Abdulmutallab tried by tribunal and, presumably, tortured to get whatever information he has, even though he is said to be cooperating fully. Is Cheney afraid? Need we even ask that question, as familiar as we all are with the former Secretary of Defense’s Vietnam-era military record?

A free society is not without risk. The framers of the Constitution were well aware of that, yet they still insisted on the Bill of Rights. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments are clear: everyone is entitled to protection from unreasonable search and seizure, the right not to give self-incriminating testimony, a speedy and public trial, and cannot be subjected to excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment. Hair-splitting about whether someone should get a public trial is anti-Constitutional on its face.

A quote I’ve borrowed for my e-mail signature reads, “I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag.” The second man is a hypocrite and a coward. If anyone is not worthy of Constitutional protection, it is he.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


From today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley predicted today that the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots will "lay down" on Sunday to help keep his team out of the playoffs.

"Cincinnati is probably going to go into New York and lay down for the Jets and not play them hard just because they don't want to see Pittsburgh in there," Woodley said, "because they know if we get into the playoffs we're a dangerous team.

"All of them will lay down. No one wants to see Pittsburgh in there. That's just how it is. Everybody knows we're a dangers team once we get into the playoffs no matter how we played throughout the whole year."

I guess Lamar figures that since Kansas City, Oakland, and Cleveland won't make the playoffs, the Steelers would be home free. Sounds a lot like how they got themselves into this situation in the first place, and doesn't augur well for a reversal next year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Skewed Perception of Security

It seems likely all American air travelers will be inconvenienced because of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s ham-handed attempt to blow up a plane in Detroit on Christmas Day. Despite the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration, few of the promised technological advances promised in the wake of 9/11 have actually borne fruit.

Security checks have become more stringent, requiring everyone to put up with more invasive and time-consuming scanning, because the government is either unwilling or unable (or both) to decide who needs special attention. Seventy-year-old retired teachers and fourteen-year-old high school girls have yet to hijack or blow up an airplane, yet I know well an example of each who were singled out for detailed searches since 9/11. (The teacher was caught coming and going on her round trip.)

The systems DHS is trying to put in place are so expensive and complicated it’s unlikely they’ll ever work with complete assurance, if they ever even get completed. Why not use the data we have—always striving to refine, improve, and add to it—to sort out who deserves special attention before boarding, and spend extra time with them? It should be more detailed than mere racial profiling, though that’s not to say racial and religious characteristics can’t be taken into consideration.

Assign points for each characteristic a person shares with the most likely perpetrators. No one or two things would push you into the Special Needs category, but if you were—ust as an example—an Arab and a Muslim flying from Algeria who had attended a Wahhabi school and had been seen at a terrorist training site, then please step to the side so we can take a closer look at you, sir. That’s not to say you couldn’t be a white Catholic who rolled up an impressive score as a member of the IRA; you’d earn a closer look, too. Meanwhile, small children and people who can be assumed to be safe to nine nines of certainty can get the routine screening. Maybe they could leave their shoes on, or carry shampoo from home. The lines would move faster and we’d be safer than if we depended on some Star Wars technology that could sniff any explosive within five feet in one part per trillion, provided it was installed and worked as advertised. (How’s that missile defense system working out?)

It’s also good to remember no problem exists in a vacuum. How much are we willing to spend, and what level of inconvenience will we tolerate to avoid another 9/11—which was eminently preventable with the policies and technology in place at the time—when we allow fifteen times as many people to die every year due to inadequate health insurance?

Standing Up

People like Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder don’t get to be the enormous pricks they are in a vacuum. (Note that I said Snyder is an enormous prick, not that he has an enormous prick. I’m writing only about what I have seen evidence of, and that evidence strongly indicates his prickiness in public may well be an attempt to disguise certain underaccomplishments not readily visible.) They are surrounded with enablers, human remoras who derive their sustenance by supporting the big dog in whatever he feels like doing.

Today’s example is Redskins defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Two weeks ago word leaked out that Gray had interviewed for the head coaching job. Nothing wrong with that in general, except that the position was occupied at the time by the man Gray worked for, and it could reasonably be assumed owed some allegiance to. Gray denied the report at the time; Redskins’ PR amended his reply from “no” to “No comment.” Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher has publicly stated more than once that he wouldn’t talk with organizations who had a coach in place; Gray interviewed for his boss’s job, denied it, and still looked the man in the eye at work each day. That’s chutzpah. It’s also a distinct lack of class.

The best part is, Gray has as much chance of getting Zorn’s job as you or I do. Snyder interviewed him solely to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a new coach. Now the way has been cleared for Snyder to hire Mike Shanahan, or whoever else catches his eye. Gray will be but a memory: any new coach will want his own staff, certainly not some holdover who has already proven he can’t be trusted.

Gray symbolizes the toadies who empower the prick at the top; Albert Haynesworth personifies those who are empowered by him. Haynesworth is a defensive tackle, arguably the best in the game at disrupting running plays. When he feels like it. He felt like it more often than not for most of the season, though he rested himself on his own schedule and suffered an unusual number of niggling injuries for someone his size. (Except for him, based on his history.)

Two weeks ago Snyder hired Bruce Allen as new General Manager, thus closing the door all but officially on Jim Zorn’s tenure as coach. Suddenly Albert’s a malcontent. He arrived late for practice on Christmas Day and was sent home after a confrontation. He was quoted as saying “we need somebody to lead us in the right direction.” Haynesworth then addressed the leadership issue in his own way, encouraging his teammates to arrive late to practice on Christmas Day to protest the early start.

Albert also doesn’t care for how he’s being used, as he told The Washington Post’s Jason Reid: “…you can only do so much within the system that's put around you. And I'm not talking about the players.” When asked if his $100 million contract ($41 million guaranteed) bestowed some sort of leadership mantle, Haynesworth replied, “A contract don't make you, as far as leadership. I've never been a guy that wants to talk or get in front of the team and say whatever…I don't even want to be a captain and go out there in the middle for the coin toss because the other team is the enemy.” His reticence clearly doesn’t include not running his mouth to the media.

Late season frustration? Sure, though Haynesworth’s acting out coincides suspiciously with Snyder’s hiring of Allen, which sealed Zorn’s status as lame duck. With an owner like Snyder, coaches like Gray and teammates like Haynesworth, who’s to blame a player for not giving himself up for the team? It’s not like too many people will have your back.

Jim Zorn appears to be a good man who is in over his head as head coach. Jason Campbell has been a trooper, and has shown some skills that might make him a serviceable quarterback for a team with a clue. They, and a good many other players, deserve better than to be in the uniformed insane asylum that passes for a football team in Washington.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

This blog—and I—have friends and readers of various faiths and beliefs. So whatever you celebrate on or about the winter solstice—Christmas, Hanukkah, the new year, Saturnalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Brumalia, Sankranti, or Festivus, enjoy yourself.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Do You Love?

I haven’t written anything guaranteed to send me to hell lately. What better time than Christmas week to break the skid?

Chris Henry died last week after falling out of the back of a moving pickup truck driven by his fiancĂ©. For those of you who are not football fans or crime reporters, Henry was a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals who had a brief and—to put it mildly—checkered career.

His NFL record is undistinguished. He caught 36 passes in his best year; the league leader is usually around or above 100. He last scored more than two touchdowns in a season in 2006, when he had nine, which is a considerable number.

Henry would have had better stats had he been able to stay on the field; he never played in all 16 games of a season. Far more impressive than his on-field accomplishments is his rap sheet:

December 15, 2005 – Stopped for speeding. Had no valid license or insurance. Marijuana found in his shoe. Pleaded guilty; no jail time.

January 30, 2006 – Arrested on multiple gun charges, including concealment and aggravated assault with a firearm. Pleaded guilty; no jail time.

April 29, 2006 – Allowed three underage females (18, 16, and 15) to consume alcohol at a hotel. Pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and sentenced to 90 days; served two. (That’s right: two.)

June 3, 2006 – Stopped for erratic driving; failed breathalyzer.

November 6, 2007 – Allegedly assaulted a valet parking attendant. Found not guilty at trial.

March 31, 2008 – Punched a man and threw a beer bottle through his car window. Henry later claimed it was a case of mistaken identity; he thought the man was someone else who owed him money. Sentenced to house arrest.

The past eighteen months had been relatively quiet for Henry. There were reports he wanted to clean up his act, and had done so. On the other hand, a 911 call received the day of the fatal accident describes him “with no shirt on, and he's got his arm in a cast on the back of the moving truck…beating on the back of this truck window... I don't know if he's trying to break in or something. It just looks crazy. It's a girl driving it."

No one but his fiancĂ© knows what went on during the preceding domestic disturbance, but what we do know doesn’t sound like someone who had made material changes from his previous conduct.

Why do I care about this? Mostly it’s because of the outpouring of grief over another life wasted. Please. Chris Henry had done a hell of a job of wasting his life all by himself long before this unfortunate episode. A lot of people died that day; he was just one of them.

Am I glad he’s dead? Of course not. I’m not feeling bad about it, either. I didn’t know Chris Henry. From what I know of him, I’m okay with that hole in my life. I do know my daughter’s boyfriend’s father, who was just diagnosed with colon cancer at 51, in large part because no one bothered to mention to him that it ran in the family. My Beloved Spouse’s best friend’s mother broke her hip. My mother may have had a small stroke a couple of weeks ago. These are people I know (and in my mother’s case, love) who did nothing to contribute to their misfortunes. These are who I feel for today.

I sometimes wonder how many people who shed tears over Chris Henry, Dale Earnhardt, Kurt Cobain, or Heath Ledger have someone close to them who is in need. Maybe it’s a health problem. Maybe they’ve been laid off and don’t have a pot to piss in. And their families are sending flowers and making contributions in the name of someone they didn’t know, never met, and who might well not deign to say hello if they met on the street.

I’ll never understand it. But thinking about this makes it a lot easier to understand how things are as fucked up as they are.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lowering This Bar Requires Digging a Hole

Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-The Hartford) was, for years, one of the more liberal members of the Senate. He fell for the arguments behind the Iraq War hook, line, and phony rationale, which left his still-liberal constituents in Connecticut less than pleased. So less then pleased were they, Joe lost the 2006 primary for his own seat, something that happens about as often as Dick Cheney buys a panhandler a steak dinner at Morton’s.

Lieberman ran as an Independent and won. (Technically, he ran on the Connecticut for Lieberman ticket, a party created just for him. More on that later.) Since then, Lieberman has repudiated virtually every liberal position he held in the past, notably, and most damagingly, his support for universal health care. The vestigial public option was stripped from the current bill as his demand, as he is this week’s 60th vote.

The Low Brass Correspondent thinks Lieberman is in the pocket of Connecticut’s insurance industry. I think Ezra Klein is closer: Lieberman is sticking it to liberals any way he can. (“But if you had attempted to forecast Lieberman's positions based on his ongoing grudge match with the liberals who defeated him in the 2006 primary, you'd have nailed it perfectly. He has, at every point, taken aim at the policies that liberals support, even when they are policies that Lieberman himself has supported.”) Why? Because they had the temerity to spurn him when he went off the rails? Politicians rarely show leadership; the country is governed by poll. Normally Lieberman would earn praise here for rejecting the general opinion of his constituents about the war and doing what he thought was right. He doesn’t, because he ignored the obvious caveat: showing such independence has risks. He was not prepared to accept those risks, and has blamed liberals for not following him ever since. That’s not taking a principled stand; it’s exercising a sense of entitlement.

Right now Lieberman couldn’t get the Connecticut electorate to vote him a brush if he was appointed public toilet cleaner. Even Connecticut for Lieberman has disowned him. He’s pissed, and this is his way of getting even. Lieberman doesn’t need insurance industry contributions anymore; the only thing he’s running for now is a job as their lobbyist, and he’s already getting in shape to carry their water.

The plan for this post was to declare Joe Lieberman the worst person in the Senate; good thing I read today’s paper first. The hands-down winner is Senator John Cornyn (R-Hell), who offered the following prayer on the floor of the Senate yesterday, in anticipation of this morning’s 1:00 AM health insurance reform vote: “What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight. That's what they ought to pray."

Hard to imagine he was talking about anyone other than Robert Byrd (D-Hospital); Ted Kennedy’s already dead. Byrd’s 92 years old, confined to a wheelchair, and probably shouldn’t be in the Senate anymore. Still, he is, and for Coburn to wish him—or any other senator—ill is beneath contempt.

There was a time when the untimely death or illness of a senator who would have cast a deciding vote for or against a filibuster would provoke a response from the opposition that reflected the fact the other side had the votes but for a calamity, and some senator who stood more for the body’s professed collegiality would have cross over, or at least have the vote delayed until the indisposed member was capable again. Today’s crew actively campaigns—not just campaigns, prays—for the misfortune of a colleague.

This country is in a crisis, in large part because the government is gridlocked, and that gridlock can be firmly laid at the feet of the Senate. Its rules were established to cater to an atmosphere of cooperation that no longer exists. It was expected its members would put aside their differences to accede to the general will except in extraordinary circumstances; now no bill can pass unless it has the 60 votes needed to kill a filibuster. This is an abomination of the intent of the body’s rules; unfortunately no one can change those rules except the diseased body itself, and it would rather protect its power to obstruct when in the eventual minority than do the people’s business.

This is where “God help us all,” might be a suitable comment, though the mere existence of the United States Senate argues against the existence of such a divine and merciful being.

Friday, December 11, 2009

From Super Bowl Champion to Homecoming Opponent

A few salient facts from last night’s Steelers game, where the defending Super Bowl champions lost 13-6 to the previously 1-11 Cleveland Browns:

It was the first time since 1997 a team ten games under .500 had beaten a defending champion. The last time it happened, a young Peyton Manning was the winning quarterback. Brady Quinn completed 6 of 19 passes for 90 yards last night. He ain’t no Peyton Manning.

The Steelers offense scored six points and allowed eight sacks. More yards were lost on sacks than were gained rushing.

The temperature at kickoff was 15 degrees, with winds of 25-48 mph. (Source: NFL Game Book.) Perfect weather for running the ball 40 times. Bruce Ariens called 21 rushes and 41 passes (including the sacks and one run by Ben Roethlisberger that was intended to be a pass).

Cleveland rushed for 171 yards, the highest total allowed by a Pittsburgh defense against Cleveland since 1972. Pittsburgh’s total offense was 216 yards.

It was clear from the outset the Steelers thought they could just throw their jerseys on the field and win. “We’re Super Bowl champions! Cleveland is 1-11! We’ve beaten them twelve times in a row!” No one appeared to remember the Steelers had lost four games in a row, bowing to such juggernauts as Kansas City and Oakland.

The offensive line didn’t block. In addition to the eight sacks, ball carriers were routinely contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage.

The defense didn’t tackle. Josh Cribbs ran through them like he was wearing a Teflon uniform.

The special teams were at least consistent: they still stink. A punt return of over forty yards was allowed. The Steelers made no returns worth mentioning. The only two bright spots were Jeff Reed’s two field goals and the team finally figuring out how to prevent long kickoff returns: If you don’t score, you never have to kickoff.

A truly disgraceful display. Thank God for hockey.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looks Like He Skanked This One Out of Bounds

I wasn’t going to write about Tiger Woods. Honest to God I wasn’t. It’s just too good to pass up any longer.

I’ve been sick of Tiger for several years. Not all his fault; the media and fawning fans have driven me crazy. To listen to them, golf isn’t worth watching unless Tiger is in contention. They’d rather watch Tiger putt out twelve strokes behind at a major championship than see the leaders go head to head.

That’s not to say none of my distaste is Tiger’s fault. No one gets away with foul language and club throwing like he does. He dictates to the Tour and its media as he wishes. (To those who say, “But he’s Tiger Woods, he can do what he wants,” I say Tiger would be a moderately successful nobody if not for professional golf, which was around before he came and will be there after he’s gone. He owes golf, not the other way around.) Tiger’s caddy is little better than a thug who is indulged by his boss. His entourage remembers slights and enforces grudges.

Now we know more about Tiger Woods than anyone ever wanted to know. His ads have been pulled. Skanks are coming out of the woodwork like roaches climbing over a doughnut crumb. Late night comedians have more fodder than they can use; if Jay Leno’s new show survives, he should thank the timely transgressions of Tiger Woods.

Normally this would fall into the “I don’t care” school of news, but there’s a small difference. Tiger has been put up as, and has put himself forward as, the new, post-racial poster boy for all that’s good in America, the 21st Century’s answer to the blond haired, blue-eyed surfer of the 1950s and 1960s. He’s made millions of dollars from the publicity associated with that conceit. (Or, as we now know, deceit.) Now the other side of publicity gets its shot at him. It’s only fair.

Tiger is the latest manifestation of the culture of entitlement that comes with celebrity in this country. Politicians have always had it, the sense that the rules that apply to others don’t apply to them. They’ve even gone so far as to codify them into law. Actors, singers, entertainers of any stripe, once they reach a certain level of fame, don’t have the same rules you or I do.

Many modern athletes have been surrounded by yes men masquerading as advisors since they were in junior high school. They’re told everything they do or want is right, because most of these hangers-on are afraid they won’t get to feed at the trough if they say “No” to the meal ticket. Tiger’s just an extreme example; he’s heard this since he was three, and from what is, to a child, an unimpeachable source: his father.

It looks like we’re far from the end of the Tiger Woods saga. Let’s just hope he kept his head covers on when he was playing a round at a course where he’s not a member.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fair is Fair

I flew to Indianapolis recently. Had to go through a metal detector, take off my shoes, and re-prove my identity several times, a couple of them within twenty feet of each other. I was subject to being pulled out of line for a more extensive physical search at any time, and my checked baggage was inspected.

Meanwhile, these two publicity whores crashed a state dinner at the White House, and got close enough to the president to shake hands.

I want some Secret Service people fired. Now. I want their heads on pikes. As both readers of this blog are aware, a good friend of mine is being riffed by his employer on Christmas Day. This is someone who has never shirked a task, and done excellent work for as long as I've known him, which implies he was like that, before, too.

Can we shelve the "good people always get ahead in America" bullshit for a while, please?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Press Release From The Home Office

28 November 2009 - From the Home Office.

The Home Office is pleased--no, pleased is too tame a word--ecstatic to announce the promotion of the Beloved Spousal Equivalent to Beloved Spouse in a brief and less than solemn ceremony at approximately 4:30 PM EST, during the third period of the Pens-Islanders game. (Which the Pens lost 3-2.) The reception was held immediately following at Famous Dave's.

No one should feel slighted if you did not receive prior notice; no one did. The Parental Units and Sole Heir were in attendance, knowing not why they were there until the moment of truth. The bride wore a yellow tee shirt with "Bride" emblazoned across the front, creating a motif for the entire party: The Parental Units shirts announced "Mother" and Father;" The Sole Heir was identified as "Daughter;" and Yours Truly was the "Groom."

The ceremony followed a Monty Python and the Holy Grail theme, as the celebrants wrote their own vows, perfectly willing to admit previous marriages that sank into the swamp, or, in more recent examples, burned down, fell over, and sank into the swamp.

Really. No kidding. All of the above is true.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seasons's Greetings

A survey asked me earlier this week if I thought the country was headed in the right direction. I gave the same answer I’ve given the last two years:


This has little to do with the Obama presidency, just as it had little to do with the Bush presidency. (I liked very little about the Bush presidency, but he was a symptom, not the problem.) Congress carries more of the blame than either executive, but they are also symptomatic of the greater failure.

As Pogo once said, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

A day can’t pass in this country without hearing what a God-fearing, compassionate people Americans are, especially this time of year. Champions of the underdog, defender of the less fortunate.


If we’re such champions of the underdog, why are the New York Yankees so popular, even with people who can’t find New York on a map? The One True God is Money, and Its religion is Capitalism. This is where the true believers congregate.

The problem with American Capitalism is you have to pay to play, and not playing is not an option. (With rare exceptions.) You have a choice of doing what you have to do to get to the top of the hierarchy, or you take your chances while those who do want to get to the top use everyone else as chess pieces.

A good friend of mine got the word he’s been laid off. The effective date is December 25, 2009. Merry fucking Christmas.

I’m sure there are sound economic and accounting reasons for this date. Christmas is a Friday, and probably ends the last pay period in the quarter, possibly the fiscal year. Still, Even Scrooge gave Bob Cratchit the day off; he didn’t fire his ass.

It’s not like Verizon is going under, or losing money; they’re just not making it as fast as management told the stockholders they would. Sales are flat—probably because so many people who might use their wireless service are already laid off—so they’re cutting expenses, creating even more unemployment. They knew when they bought Alltel these people were going to be riffed; this happened to be the optimal time to pull the trigger.

Somewhere in the great bureaucracy of Verizon is a single individual who signed off on this. Die, motherfucker; we’ll get over it. Last night I wanted him to suffer first, but, rested and viewing events in the light of a new day, I’m willing to let him stroke out, on one condition. He should remain lucid long enough to recognize himself for the money-worshipping son of a bitch he is, and know he will not be missed.

The problem is, there will be a hundred others climbing over each other to take his place.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Small States and Filibusters

Fred Hiatt, with whom I agree about as often as Dick Cheney admits error, has some good points in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Fred being Fred, he still manages to annoy me with the following comment:

The advent of the 60-vote rule in the Senate has magnified the already formidable checks and balances built into the Constitution, with the disproportionate blocking power it awards small and rural states.

Health insurance reform advocates have lamented for months the influence of small and rural states on crafting the legislation, as Max Baucus’s Gang of Six was wholly made up of senators from small, rural states. Dissing small and rural states is a recent phenomenon, and reflects poorly on those—mostly progressives—who put it forward.

Small states are still states. Just because most of them are in what the MSM thinks of as “fly-over country,” not part of either coast, doesn’t make them any less worthy. They are just as likely to produce fine lawmakers as larger states. The problem with the Gang of Six wasn’t that they were from small or rural states; it was that Charles Grassley was a duplicitous bastard who did his best to sell Baucus out, and Mike Enzi was essentially a mole who never wanted to make a deal in the first place. Is their behavior unique to small states? Are the senators of larger states immune to such duplicity?

The “disproportionate blocking power” of these states is on people’s minds now because of the 60 votes needed to halt a filibuster. Ezra Klein, with whom I agree several times a day, advocates doing away with the filibuster here. Contrary to what Klein says, the filibuster provides a potentially valuable role by keeping public policy from swaying with the winds of public opinion. The last thing the country needs is to have large swaths of legislation changing from Congress to Congress. Some stability is needed, if only to sort things out and give them time to work.

The problem we have today is not the filibuster; it’s the misuse of the filibuster. I’m old enough to remember a time when the Senate routinely passed bills with less than 60 votes. (And no, that’s not because there weren’t as many senators then.) Senators used to be able to say they didn’t want a bill to pass, but that it deserved to come to a vote and the majority could rule.

No more. Now virtually everything that won’t stop the government dead (and is thus subject to the reconciliation process, which bypasses filibusters) requires 60 votes. That’s not the purpose of the filibuster. It’s designed to keep the majority from running roughshod over the rights or interests of a sizeable minority.

Some would say that’s why using the filibuster is a legitimate means to kill health insurance reform. Maybe. Let’s line up everyone who is threatening to vote against cloture and survey them on past positions, or on the reason they’re voting to kill the bill. I’m willing to bet at least a dozen will cite reasons that are at best disingenuous, or, at worst, downright dishonest. Those senators, as individuals, are misusing the filibuster. That’s where the problem lies, not in how big or small their states are or whether the filibuster serves a useful purpose in its proper place.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Money Ball

Ralph Friedgen’s job as head football coach at the University of Maryland may be in jeopardy. The team is currently 2-9 in a conference having a down year generally, and this is his fourth losing season in the past six years.

Friedgen still has two years left on his contract, at $2 million a year. The athletic department can apparently borrow the money from the school’s endowment to can him, so it can use the money budgeted for coaches salary to hire a replacement.

But…there’s a complication. Offensive Coordinator James Franklin was named “coach-in-waiting” before the beginning of this season, to keep him from being snatched away by another school, or by the NFL. Maryland had three losing seasons in five years prior to this announcement; how hot could Franklin be? Coaches-in-waiting are named to replace people like Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden, guys who have been around since before any of their players—and some of their players’ parents—were born. The Fridge had a few good years at Maryland, but the Terps have been a middling team in a middling conference since. Why rush to wrap Franklin up, without even knowing who else might be available when Friedgen retires?

It gets better. Franklin’s head coaching contract is already guaranteed. He must receive a five-year deal worth at least as much as the average of all other Atlantic Coast Conference coaches. If he is not named head coach by the end of the 2011 football season, Maryland still has to pay him $1 million.

The school wants rid of Friedgen because he’s losing money faster than football games; ticket sales missed their projections by $600,000 this year. The answer Athletic Director Debbie Yow and President Dan Mote have come up with will require dipping into the endowment, and possibly paying two members of the current staff not to coach at some point. (No one at Maryland seems to have a problem with using the endowment for such a purpose.)

Yow’s a real piece of work. She tried to hound Gary Williams out of his job as basketball coach last year because he’d missed a couple of NCAA tournaments, and was having a tough time last year. Williams pre-dates her at UMD, so maybe she feels she doesn’t have the control over him she’d like. Never mind he left a successful program at Ohio State to come back and save the program at his alma mater, where Len Bias’s death and Bob Wade’s tenure had left it on life support. Friedgen is her hire; she threw the money at him. When is Debbie going to held accountable?

Dan Mote’s not off the hook, either. Everyone answers to him. How can he look prospective students in the eye, telling them how they may have to sacrifice to pay for their education, when over a hundred of them could have free rides—tuition, room and board, books—for what they’re paying the football coach? Not to mention over fifty more who could get squared away for what they might pay Franklin not to coach.

This isn’t just a Maryland problem. It prompted this rant because I’m a Maryland taxpayer, and my daughter is enrolled. Schools all over the country pay football and basketball coaches unconscionable sums of money, then cry poverty and blame Title IX when they cut programs. College sports should be a great thing. The pageantry and sprit they engender should be lasting good memories of every student. I still get choked up when I watch the video of the Ohio State marching band spell out the script “Ohio” before each game, and I hate Ohio State.

There are a lot of things wrong about how we conduct ourselves in this country; college sports is pretty far down the list in its importance. Most of our faults at least have the courtesy—or common sense—to try to fly under the radar and don’t advertise their lack of conscience and perspective.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Questions We Should Ask

To any elected representative who opposes health insurance reform:
Why should your constituents not be able to get the same coverage you get?

To anyone who opposes gay marriage:
Can you cite one way in which allowing gays to marry will adversely affect your marriage, or anyone else’s?

To any member of the religious right who protests gay rights or abortion with venom and vitriol:
Is this what Jesus would do?

To pro-lifers who would argue that abortion is the killing of innocent babies and should be banned, except in the case of rape or incest:
Are those babies any less innocent than others?

Other situations and questions are invited in the comments section.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Constitutional Scholarship

South Park occasionally scorches a religion or point of view by presenting an animated version of their beliefs and running under it a scroll that read: THIS IS WHAT MORMONS/SCIENTOLOGISTS [whoever] REALLY BELIEVE.

It's just as funny when The Onion gets into the act.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

If you're not in the mood for me to sound like a prick, stop reading now.

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance Day in many other places. Newspapers, blogs, and television will be full of people who want to make sure veterans are properly appreciated for all they've done. "Thank you for serving and protecting my rights and my family..." and on and on, and they all leave out the part most of them feel most strongly about:

" I didn't have to."

If you want to show appreciation for veterans, pound your elected representatives to get medical care and counseling for them. Raise hell to ensure they get the proper equipment and armor so those serving now have a better chance to live long enough to become veterans. VA hospitals should be state of the art; they're better than they used to be, but considering what they used to be, that's damning with faint praise.

Talk is cheap, and the paeans offered by politicians are the Wal-Mart of talk . I wonder what could be accomplished for veterans if they got the money spent on the new engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, which the military didn't want but got shoved down their throats.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


The beloved Spousal Equivalent has described Slate's Dahlia Lithwick as "[my] intellectual mistress." I love reading Ms. Lithwick's articles, especially her coverage of the Supreme Court. Thats why i was so disappointed to see this in today's story:

"Sanders explains that fabricated evidence itself doesn't constitute a constitutional violation because that can happen only when it's introduced at trial. Justice Sonia Sotomayor—sporting earrings the size of small saucepans today—cuts him off."

She described the adornments of none of the male justices. If a man had written this, his head would be on a pike in Slate's DoubleXX blog.

Game Six

In the interest of fairness, let’s get this out of the way up front: the better team won. There will be other times to comment on te politics and economics of baseball, but the Yankees were clearly better than the Phillies last night and deserved to win.

Andy Pettitte had nothing. His curve had no bite and he had trouble hitting his spots with his fastball. He allowed more walks than hits (5-4) and threw 94 to get through 5 2/3 innings, only 50 of which were strikes. Still, he did all a pitcher can do: he kept his team in the game. When Carlos Ruiz hit a one-out triple, Pettitte gave up the sacrifice fly and got the inning over with. Last night showed why Pettitte is one of the greatest big game pitchers of all time; he knows how to win when he doesn’t have his good stuff. Or any stuff at all.

If Pettitte had nothing, Pedro had less, and it looked like he knew it. He worked slower than usual and appeared to be laboring throughout. The difference between him and Pettitte was Pettitte got through it. The Yankees’ hitters deserve a lot of the credit for Pedro’s inability to match Pettitte. Matsui had him dialed in all night.

What killed the Phillies last night was the Yankees’ ability to do something the Phillies failed to do in Game 2, when the Series was still up for grabs: have a plan when they came to the plate. The Yankees saw Pedro had nothing and waited him out. The Phillies saw the Angels get embarrassed by AJ Burnett in Game 2 of the ALCS by taking first pitch strikes, then hammer him in Game 5 by jumping on those same pitches, yet they were remarkably passive in Burnett’s Game 2 Series effort. Didn’t they watch the ALCS? Don’t they have scouts? In Game 5 they came out hacking. They do that in Game 2 and it’s an entirely different Series.

Was anyone else struck with wonder that either team made it this far, considering the lack of confidence each manager had in his bullpen, Mariano Rivera notwithstanding? Manuel didn’t have anyone he could depend on. Girardi got some good innings from Joba and Marte, but no reliever was allowed to pitch himself out of a jam. Girardi played his match-ups hard, the sgn of a manager who doesn’t trust his pitchers to go out and let it fly.

I don’t remember Fox showing any numbers on this, but I have a sense the Phillies’ batting average with runners in scoring position must have been as low as any team that lasted six games. Maybe it was just because so many of the at bats were so bat, regardless of the final outcome.

Announced attendance last night was 50,315; Yankee Stadium capacity is listed at 52,325 (including standing room). They devoted 2000 for the expanded press box and media requirements?

There has now not been a Game 7 since 2002, when Dusty Baker thought there wouldn’t be one either.

Game Six Tim McCarver Moment – Hard to believe, but nothing McCarver said met his usual threshold of ignorance/vapidity. I dozed through much of the last three innings, so I could have missed something. Feel free to comment if I did.

Pitchers and catchers report in 106 days. (Based on earliest announced reporting dates.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Last Night's Elections

Far be it for me to dispute the Conventional Wisdom that says last night's elections in Virginia and New Jersey "reveal[ed] cracks in [the] Obama coalition." Still, there are other possibilities based more on evidence than opinion.

Virginia governor - Virginia has a history of electing governors from the president's opposition party. Virginia was a stronghold for George W. Bush, yet elected two Democratic governors during his administration. No one thought either of those were a referendum on Bush.

New Jersey governor - New Jersey voters had a mad on for Jon Corzine well before Obama was elected. Corzine did little to curb their anger. This was more of a "and the horse you rode in on" election than a referendum on national politics.

One race that might be realistically viewed as showing a trend was the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District. Three candidates ran: a Democrat, a Republican, and a Conservative. (There is an established Conservative Party in New York.) The Republican candidate was trashed for not being conservative enough; "opinion makers" such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann loudly endorsed the Conservative. The Republican candidate, turned on by her own party, dropped out and said the Democrat was a better choice than the Conservative. The Democrat won handily.

Conservatives went out of their way to make this a national election, and were trounced. The Republican party finds itself in a similar position to Muslims. They either need to speak out against their extreme branches, or risk becoming condemned with them.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Game Five

Game Five wasn’t much apart from watching the Phillies blow AJ Burnett out by the third inning and their sphincter-tightening efforts to blow the game. (Is it just me, or does Burnett always look like he’s about to either cry, or try to rip your head off?)

Now the real fun starts: second-guessing the managers. Girardi has taken advantage of the leisurely pace of postseason scheduling to ride three starters, mainly because he only has three starters he trusts. That’s fine for the first two rounds, as Fox’s added days off make keeping pitchers busy harder than keeping them fresh. The Series still uses the traditional format, which means bringing Sabathia back on three days’ rest means Burnett and Pettitte have to do it, too, or Chad Gaudin need to start Game Five. This minimizes the effectiveness of working Sabathia three times, since the pitcher who loses a start isn’t Gaudin, it’s Pettitte. Not much of a gain for such risk.

So everyone gets three days rest. Maybe it affected Burnett; maybe not. What’s quantifiable is that he got lit up, and now it’s up to Pettitte to close it out or let the Series got o Game Seven. Pettitte actually prefers five days rest instead of the usual four, and wasn’t sharp his last time out, though he still got the win. Bringing him back on three is a definite gamble. Yankees fans have the comfort of Sabathia pitching in Game Seven, but take a look at the record. They’re 1-1 in his two starts so far, and he’s 0-1. He’s pitched well (3.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 12-6 strikeouts to walks), but it’s not like Girardi will be sending Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson to the mound to validate his strategy.

At least Girardi knows he’s made a decision and can put things in his best pitcher’s hands. It will be Cole Hamels’s turn to pitch for Game Seven, and he’s been, to put it politely, terrible. Yakked up a lead so quick in Game Three Penn and Teller couldn’t have got the bullpen involved in time. Then he was quoted after the game as saying he can’t wait for this season to be over. Maybe he’s just frustrated and it slipped out wrong. It can’t make Charlie Manuel too secure to know his potential season-saving pitcher isn’t sure he wants to be there. At least he has an option: J.A. Happ was probably Philadelphia’s best pitcher down the stretch, apart from Lee. Problem is, with the spread out schedule, Happ hasn’t started in a month,

I told the beloved Spousal Equivalent I’d officially declare a man crush on Chase Utley if he hit another home run about five minutes before he hit another home run. I just hope he washes his hands after he touches his hair if we’re going to shake, or I’ll spill more beer than I drink from the glasses slipping out of my hands.

Joe Buck needs his depth perception checked. He repeatedly announces pop-ups on balls that are caught near the warning track. It’s like he’s channeling Harry Caray.

A-Rod Watch – two for four, three RBI. His Series average is up to .222. Fair’s fair, and he was on his game last night.

Game Five Tim McCarver Moment – It’s harder to get three strikes than it is to get two.

Game Five Tim McCarver Moment (Honorable Mention) – “In case you’re wondering why he’s pinch hitting Posada in the fifth inning, it’s so he can get an extra at bat out of him, as opposed to waiting for the seventh or eighth.” You might want to mention that Molina only played because he’s Burnett’s pet catcher, and is a defensive specialist. The Yanks were down 6-1; they needed lumber.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Game Four

Girardi rolled the dice and won. Sabathia wasn’t lights out (10 base runners in 6.2 innings for a WHIP of 1.49), but was good enough. He can’t wait for the Series to end so he doesn’t have to pitch to Chase Utley anymore.

Manuel rolled the dice, too, in a different way, and did okay. Cliff Lee had never started on three days’ rest, and he already had 260+ innings on his arm this year. If Manuel started him and he blew up, there was no good fallback position. Blanton was fine after a shaky first inning; he wasn’t the reason the Phillies lost. (Brad Lidge, Brad Lidge, Brad Lidge.)

Fox has gone overboard with their heavy-handed approach to making MLB kiss their asses. The first three games of the Series started at 7:57. Last night they said they’d be on after The OT, their NFL post-game show. Football games all finish in the 7:15-7:30 time frame, the OT runs, and Curt, Terry, Howie, Michael, and Jimmy spend ten minutes bullshitting to get us to 8:00, when the baseball pre-game show started. It lasted twenty minutes, with no segment longer than two before commercial interruption. First pitch was actually 8:22. Television used to allow viewers the illusion they were showing commercials to pay for the programming. Now they’ve abandoned all pretense. Shows are broadcast because the suits don’t think they can get us to watch nothing but commercials for hours at a time. They would if they could, though.

Fox’s insistence on pushing baseball back into the November sweeps period raises an interesting question: What will they do if conditions dictate a World Series game on the night of a presidential election? Not cover the election? Or make baseball take yet another day off?

The late start must have pushed the game beyond home plate umpire Mike Everitt’s bed time. Anything close might as well have been decided with a coin toss. No consistency at all. His no call, then half-assed safe signal on Ryan Howard’s game-tying second inning run—where Howard missed the plate and Everitt appeared to know it—was disgraceful.

Posada didn’t hold the ball; Howard missed the plate. The correct call is what Everitt did at first: nothing. He’s neither safe nor out. Posada knew he hadn’t made the tag, assumed Howard was safe, and threw to second to try to get the trail runner. Howard walked off the field. Everitt saw him leaving, and gave a sorta kinda “safe” signal. Howard should have been called out when he got to the dugout. Everitt apparently didn’t want a big argument from the Phillies, and figured the Yankees were good with it, as Posada neglected to go after Howard. And they pay Everitt for this.

McCarver wondered why Posada gave Sabathia multiple signs, even when there was no runner on second. A better question would have been, why was he flashing signs at all? Posada went out to talk to him after virtually every pitch for some batters.

A-Rod watch – A double and hit by pitch in five plate appearances. Run scored, run batted in, and a strikeout. Series average: .143.

Game Four Tim McCarver Moment - Comparing Posada to Tom Brady because he was “calling audibles” during his countless trips to the mound.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Game Three

Charlie Manuel suffered a manager's nightmare last night. Starting pitcher cruising, team has a few runs in his pocket, and he blows up so quickly there's no time to get anyone ready before the lead is gone and then some. Who would have figured Hamels to pitch 3 1/2 hitless innings, then give up five runs and not make it through the fifth?

I'll put up a million dollars to anyone who can hit the sign if I get to put my sign where Visa put theirs. Mark McGwire in his juiced-up prime couldn't hit that sign with a bazooka.

The game asn't as exciting as the line score would indicate. Most of the scoring came on home runs, which can be fun, but the real fun is watching pitchers work out of jams and see players running the bases.

A-Rod watch - twice hit by pitch, one walk, a home run, a strikeout, and a throwing error. It was nice to see the umpires get the call right on his home run, even if they had to use instant replay to do it.

Pettitte and Hamels both showed by the DH is an abomination is the sight of God by helping themselves with the bat. Hamels had a sacrifice, and the Yankees misplayed another sacrifice into a base hit. Pettitte has a solid single to drive in a run, but, man, is he a piss poor base runner.
Pitchers should be able to contribute in all ways, just like everyone else. Pitchers wh can handle the bat are penalized by the DH, as are their teams.

This was the twelfth game played by each team since the season ended October 4. The Yankees couldn't have ordered up a better schedule, given their lack of starting pitching and Girardi's lack of faith in anyone but Rivera in the bullpen. Congress spent more time in session last month.

Congratualtions to Andy Pettitte for increasing his record with his 17th post-season win. If he gets into the Hall of Fame, it will be on his post-season credentials. No one's been better for longer.

Game Three Tim McCarver Moment - Reminding everyone to turn their clocks ahead, or they'll be late for Sunday's games. First, clocks were turned back last night. Second, even if you did forget, you'd be an hour early, since they were supposed to be turned back in the first place.

Game Three Tim McCarver Moment (Honorable Mention) - Saying Jimmy Rollins came from the second base side of second base to take a pickoff throw. A shift was on, and shortstop Rollins was playing to the right of second, but there ain't no second base side of second. Maybe if you're standing on the bag.

Sabathia comes back on three says' rest tonight, just like in the old days. This could be the pivotal mangerial move of the Series.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Game Two

Yankees won last night, so not a lot of merriment. Another pitcher’s duel. No complaints about that; pitcher’s duels are often compelling, as every event is magnified, since there’s no expectation of getting another chance later like there might be in an 11-10 game.

AJ Burnett threw first pitch fastballs for strikes to just about every batter. He did this in his first ALCS appearance and beat the Angels. They were ready in his second outing and scored four runs on his first twelve pitches before he adjusted. Did the Phillies’ scouts watch the ALCS? Phillies hitters took Strike One all night when they should have been looking dead red from time they left the on-deck circle.

Is A-Rod a pleasure to watch, or what? Three more strikeouts last night, though he did finally get a ball out of the infield. (Medium-deep fly to left.) Oh-for-eight so far in the Series. Remember the comments about Chase Utley’s two Game One home runs being the first time a left-handed hitter has hit two off a left-handed pitcher since Babe Ruth in 1928? Well, A-Rod made his own move for immortality last night. Only one other player has struck out three times in two consecutive Series games: Jim Lonborg, in 1967. A pitcher. With a .136 lifetime average back in the day when even the American League played Real Baseball. Another hat trick tomorrow and A-Rod’s place in history is secure.

The Game Two Tim McCarver Moment – Jimmy Rollins on first, running with the pitch. Shane Victorino singles to right. Melky Cabrera changes the ball and fires a strike to third to hold Rollins at second. McCarver’s analysis includes a rambling tale of how former Dodger outfielder Ron Fairly told him once the surest way to keep a runner from going first to third is to have the right fielder charge the ball, as his momentum is moving in the direction of the throw. No offence to Ron Fairly, who was a fine player in his day, but Tim needed help to figure that out, and was so impressed at Fairly’s acumen he credited him for the tip? Maybe Fairly bought one of McCarver’s CDs. The only one.

The Game Two Tim McCarver Moment (Honorable Mention) – Now Rollins and Victorino are on second and first, respectively. Chase “Doing Things No Left-Handed Batter Since Babe Ruth Has Done” Utley runs the count to 3-2. McCarver says the runners have to go. They don’t, and Utley hits into a double play. McCarver then goes on to rail about how the runners had to go. Down two runs in the eighth inning, Rivera on the mound, stay out of the double play. Sure there’s the chance of a strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play, but Utley is a contact hitter.

Whoa. Chase Utley is a fine hitter and I’m happy to wash his cars for him after his Game One heroics, but he is not a contact hitter. He struck out 110 times this year. Not Ryan Howard or Jose Hernandez levels, but he ain’t Rod Carew or Richie Ashburn, either. Over his career, Utley strikes out about every fifth at bat. On the other hand, he only hit into five double plays all year, about one every 114 at bats. Which was he more likely to do? Well, that’s why they play the games. I would’ve sent them, too; Rivera doesn’t mess with holding runners. (Most great pitchers don’t. They get the batter out. He’s the one can hurt you.) That doesn’t make Manuel wrong; it just blew up on him.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game One

Comments on World Series Game One:

Cliff Lee and Chase Utley are now the Official Favorite Players of The Home Office, at least until after tonight’s game.

It’s nice to see some things never change. The sun rises in the east, water runs downhill, and Alex Rodriguez chokes like Jenna Jameson with tonsillitis when the games get big enough. (Three strikeouts and a weak ground ball to third.)

The Phillies won the game in the first inning, even though they didn’t score, by making C.C. Sabathia throw over 20 pitches. No way he’d get a complete game, and the Yankees bullpen is as reliable as Colin Powell speaking to the United Nations.

When will people figure out Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman is the most overrated person in sports? Ten years of unlimited budgets and he’s never put together a bullpen to support Mariano Rivera, who he inherited. How many key players have the Yankees drafted since Cashman took over? Cano. (Maybe.) Phil Hughes? Sucks. Joba the Hutt? Sucks. Don’t talk about Teixiera or Sabathia or Burnett (who can suck mightily on occasion) or any of the other free agents he signed. It doesn’t take the second coming of Branch Rickey to know Tex was the best player available last winter and Sabathia was the best pitcher. Baseball gets a salary cap and Cashman’s Yankees are the Washington Nationals North.

Joe Girardi has even less confidence in his bullpen than Charlie Manuel has in his. Girardi went through five pitchers to get six outs in the eighth and ninth innings, trying to match up on every batter. Wait till he gets to Philadelphia, where they play real baseball, and he has to worry about the pitcher batting.

Play of the Game – Jimmy Rollins catching Robinson Cano’s pop-up right at ground level after almost letting it drop. Base runner Hideki Matsui didn’t know whether to have sushi or wind his watch while Rollins and Ryan Howard combined to get a double play out of five possible outs. (The five? 1. Rollins caught the ball in the fly to get Cano. Even if he hadn’t caught the ball, he stepped on second to force Matsui (2) then threw to first in time to get Cano (3). Throwing to first doubled off Matsui (4), since Rollins did catch the ball; Howard tagged Matsui while off the base, which counts whether Rollins catches the ball or not.) It still took the umpires five minutes to figure out how they did it and get the call right.

The Game One Tim McCarver Moment—His certainty, expressed before every batter in the ninth inning, that Lee was coming out of the game. Lee hadn’t lost an inch off his fastball, threw 122 easy pitches total, as the Yankees never put two men on base in an inning until they were down 6-0 in the ninth and Rollins made an error. “He’ll pitch to Damon, but not Teixiera.” “He’s pitching to Teixiera because he’s struck him out twice, but he won’t pitch to Rodriguez.” He finally shut up when even he realized he could no more grasp this game than an African swallow can grasp a bowling ball.

Game One Tim McCarver Moment, Joe Buck Division—When describing Chase Utley’s night, Buck noted Utley was the first left-handed batter to hit two home runs off a left-handed pitcher in a World Series game since Babe Ruth in 1928. Joe then added, “Of course, Ruth did it for the Yankees, and Utley for the Phillies.” Thanks for providing that deep insight, Joe.

Center Ice

I Brett Favre’d over the decision for weeks, finally got the NHL Center Ice package. This allows me to watch any NHL game I want; sometimes I’ll even be able to choose which announcing crew and feed I get.

This week showed me I chose wisely. New Jersey beat the Pens 4-1 on Saturday night (bummer), but we then switched over and caught the last minute of the Buffalo-Tampa Bay game in time to see Buffalo pull the goalie and tie the game, then win in a shootout. I doubt I’ll watch a lot of games other than the Pens, but it will be nice for those evenings I’m too tired/lazy/spaced to do anything but stare at the TV and can’t find anything worth watching on my 500 channel system. There won’t be too many evenings without some hockey.

More to the point of the purchase, the Pens beat Montreal 6-1 last night. I’ve seen nine of the Pens’ twelve games so far, and it’s nice to get a feel for how the team is playing. I’m learning to spot when there’s a good effort, and what kinds of plays that don’t show up in the box score can lead to goals. Sidney Crosby got his third career hat trick by the middle of the second period, and Chris Kunitz finally got a goal after eleven-plus games of doing all the dirty work. Kunitz also garnered three assists, mostly through doing little things I might not have noticed if I wasn’t becoming more hockey literate: not giving up on a play, being the “third man high,” and taking a beating to throw the puck from the corner to the slot. The Pen’s did nothing spectacular. It was a workmanlike effort, and suddenly I looked at the score and realized this was turning into a pretty good ass kicking.

This is going to make winter—aka The Season of Doom™--a lot easier to take.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pot and the Kettle

Sub-head from today's Washington Post online edition:

Administration fights GOP suggestion that money can buy untoward access in Obama's Washington.

It probably can; there's no reason to think this administration should be noticeably different than all its predecessors. On the other hand, for Republicans to cry foul after Tom DeLay's blatant "pay to play" policies is a little like Madonna calling someone else a slut.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I was away at a writers conference for most of last week, calling in daily to check on the Beloved Spousal Equivalent, who was happily busy painting her bathroom in preparation for the new sink to be plumbed so her new cabinets could be hung.

She told me she'd probably need my help with the cabinets. We could do it after work on Monday. I pointed out there was a baseball playoff doubleheader on television after work on Monday. She paused only a second and said it wouldn't take long. I was unconcerned, as the miracle of modern DVR technology allows me to control the space-time continuum when televised sporting events are involved.

I got home last night, dropped off my stuff, and engaged my beloved in domestic conversation. After a few minutes she slipped in a morsel about how there had been a power failure over the weekend and she was having trouble with the big television in the living room. Half an hour of troubleshooting--which consisted largely of looking for the manual--showed the bulb was burned out. It's a do-it-yourself repair, once you get the bulb, which will take from one to three days. This conveniently left my Monday open for whatever home improvement tasks might be on the agenda.

She's not as dumb as I look.

Virtue is sometimes its own reward. The plumber never showed, and nothing can be done until the sink is in.

The Home Office is not mocked.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stuck in the Middle

Senate Majority Leader (their term, not mine) Harry Reid (D-NV) has a dilemma. His job as Majority Leader requires him to promote a political agenda more liberal than his constituents in Nevada are comfortable with. This is causing him trouble in his 2010 re-election campaign, and Republicans would like nothing better than to see a Majority Leader’s pelt hanging from their rafters come January 2011.

Reid’s problem is easy to see, and one we’ve probably all had from time to time. He’s trying to serve two masters, and succeeding with neither. The obvious thing to do would be to resign the majority leader position so he can “better serve his constituents in Nevada.” The Democrats could then name someone from a more liberal state who would not face such a quandary, allowing Harry to keep the Nevada seat warm.

Of course, this would call for leadership and a willingness to self-sacrifice, so it’s not likely to happen.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Unsolicited Advice

The Nobel Peace Rpize isn't just a cool medal; it also comes with almost a million dollars. As president, Barack Obama can't accept the million bucks. What should he do with it?

Not that anyone asked, but I think he should offer it to Rush Limbaugh, if El Rushbo gets a flu shot. Let's see how much ideological purity that fat fuck has with a million simoleans staring him in the face. That can buy a lot of Twinkies.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

God's Will

A Wisconsin couple was sentenced to six months jail time and ten years probation for refusing to seek medical attention for their 11-year-old daughter, praying over her with others while the child died of a treatable form of diabetes.

From the article:
"We are here today because to some, you made Kara a martyr to your faith," [Judge Vincent] Howard told the parents.

In testimony at trial and in videotaped interviews with police, the parents said they believe healing comes from God and that they never expected their daughter to die.

During the sentencing hearing, Leilani Neumann, 41, told the judge her family is loving and forgiving and has wrongly been portrayed as religious zealots.

"I do not regret trusting truly in the Lord for my daughter's health," she said. "Did we know she had a fatal illness? No. Did we act to the best of our knowledge? Yes."

Dale Neumann, 47, read from the Bible and told the judge that he loved his daughter.

"I am guilty of trusting my Lord's wisdom completely. ... Guilty of asking for heavenly intervention. Guilty of following Jesus Christ when the whole world does not understand. Guilty of obeying my God," he said.

Here’s a suggestion for what Judge Howard might have said instead:

This is God’s will. He took your daughter from you because you are unfit to be trusted with His creations. He has, in His wisdom, made available to you medical procedures that could easily have saved her, and you spurned His efforts. Had you truly trusted Him, you would have availed yourself of the He has provided for you and given Him His due thanks, as you do for every meal He has provided you throughout your miserable existence, you ignorant, small-minded bastards.

I suppose it’s too much to ask for their other children to be taken someplace safe, far away from their parents’ medical and theological expertise.

It's About Time

Interesting, though not unexpected, article in today’s Washington Post. Minority groups have been curiously quiet so far in the health care debate, apparently because “they had been reluctant to make race and ethnicity a central issue because the topic is so controversial.”

"There are some people who would like to defeat this bill by tagging it to the issue of race," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Are these organizations limited to addressing only issues of race, or more broad-based issues solely through the lens of race? This should have been an easy one for them. Minorities are disproportionately hurt by the current system because so many of them fall through the cracks. This is more due to class than to race. Still, it’s a matter of right and wrong. Is it in their organizational charters that they can’t stand up for something that will benefit their constituency just because it’s right, and just not promote it because they’re black. Or Hispanic. Or whatever other group you care to name?

Will some on the other side use their input to cast the debate in more racial tones? Almost certainly. That’s probably a good thing for reform advocates, as it will expose more of this demagoguery for exactly what it is: obstructionism without a factual leg to stand on.

As has been noted, I’m safely defined by contemporary standards as a liberal. I think health care reform is imperative, and I favor some form of a public option. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with every “liberal” or “progressive” organization because they’re right-thinking people with altruistic motives. Right is right. Get out in front of it, or quit asking people to think of you as leaders.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Hawk Be 61

Avery Brooks is 61 years old today. He’s a fine actor, worthy of recognition for many things, but to me he’s Hawk. Ever since I saw him on Spenser For Hire—an okay show that he made better than it should have been—I can’t read a Robert B. Parker without thinking of him and hearing him every time Hawk makes an appearance.

The five greatest marriages of an actor to a character in television history are, in ascending order:

Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker in All in the Family
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos
Avery Brooks as Hawk in Spenser For Hire
Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing in Dallas
Ian McShane as Al Swearingen in Deadwood

Struggling for a Topic

I try to post something here at least once a week so my legion of regular readers have something to look forward to when they adjourn from their meetings in a carnival photo booth. It’s been hard lately. I try to stay timely, but look at the options:

Health Care
I’m getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from typing about health care, and I’m not positive I’m insured for it.

As this column shows, writing about politics is currently beneath even me, which is kind of like saying someone is such a low-life, not even Rod Blagojevich will drink with him. Even if he buys. Things are officially bad when one becomes nostalgic for such statesmen as C. L. Schmidt and Bill Scranton.

Chicago’s Failed Olympic Bid
Good for Rio. South America’s first Olympics and a time zone ahead of us for a change, so NBC won’t too badly butcher the concept of “plausibly live.” That’s about all there is to say about that, and it’s not worth an entire post. Obama’s trip to Copenhagen? Bad PR, insignificant otherwise. See above comment.

The most exciting baseball news for me this summer is the Pirates’ heroic chase to avoid 100 losses. Last night’s rainout helped their chances as much as a win. Still too early in the Steelers’ season to get worked up, and the Penguins don’t start until tonight.

At least the baseball playoffs start next week. I may be sleep deprived, but I’ll be interested. Since the Pirates have kept their seventeen year streak of ineptitude alive, here are my rooting interests for baseball’s post season, in decreasing order.

Colorado Rockies – The Sibling Correspondent and his family are Rox fans. That’s good enough for me. Who could root against a team with a player named Tulowitzki?

St. Louis Cardinals – Maybe the best baseball town in America. Tony LaRussa’s kind of a tool, but Albert Pujols is the shit.

Philadelphia Phillies – A tough choice. They could have been second—I like a lot of their players—but they’re from Philadelphia. The schadenfreude potential of watching their obnoxious fans lose drops them to third.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Again, a lot of players to like, and Joe Torre. Man Ram outweighs them all.

Detroit Tigers – Jim Leyland was the last Pirate manager to win more games than he lost for even a single season, and that was in 1992. He gets it, too. Told the players early in the year things were tough in Motown, so running out ground balls would be a good idea. Owner Tom Ilitch has also done what he can with ticket prices and promos. Be nice for Michigan to win one after Michigan State (college basketball) and the Red Wings (hockey) came so close. (No sympathy for the Wings. Pens rule!)

Boston Red Sox – Normally the Number One choice for a card carrying fan of Red Sox Nation, but the Tigers have a lot of intangibles, and the Sox payroll and revenues have turned them into Yankees Lite. The David Ortiz revelations don’t help, either, no matter how much he denies them.

Los Angeles California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – I’ve always been a Mike Scioscia fan, and I love the way they play the game. I almost put them Number 2, but realized they’ll play the Sox in the first round, and I’d wind up rooting for the Sox without thinking about it just out of habit.

New York Yankees – Yankees suck.

The World Series? National League always trumps the American League, unless they send the Dodgers, or the Junior Circuit sends the Sox. (Maybe the Tigers.) If the Dodgers play the Yankees, it’s time to check the hockey listings.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Collar Color

The most memorable event of my summer was “helping” my father and brother build a shed for me. (By “helping,” I mean I held and carried lumber, drove a few screws, and wrapped plastic around the incomplete frame at night.) I keep thinking of this because of several discussion I’ve been involved in on web sites where blue collar labor is sometimes described as the easy way out, an option for people who lack the discipline to devote themselves to college.

These eloquent and well-educated people are full of shit.

The first argument that offended me was the idea that people in what they would describe as menial jobs are there by choice, due to their own sloth or ignorance. One even went so far as to say coal miners must like it, or there wouldn’t be so many generations of minors. This shows an ignorance that borders on racism in its breadth and depth. No ten-year-old kid dreams of a life in the mines. A well-known writer—it may have been Val McDermid—told of her father’s glee at having only daughters, as it meant none of his children would follow him into the mines.

The second offensive argument spins off from the first, an implication these jobs are somehow less worthy than those held by “educated” folk. I have a Masters Degree, and earn my living at a computer keyboard working on learning management systems. I’m good at what I do, and I make good money at it. I am also aware my expertise isn’t worth a damn if the building isn’t properly wired, or the microchip wasn’t manufactured to a minute tolerance. My building is heated in the winter and air-conditioned in the summer, and I can go to the toilet by walking around a corner.

Those of us for whom this facility was built couldn’t handle any of these things on our own. We are wholly dependent on a skilled or semi-skilled workforce that largely consists of high school graduates. They do the plumbing and wire the buildings and assemble the machines and build the roads and manufacture the parts and fix things when they go bad. They pick up the trash and treat the sewage that keeps 21st Century Washington from looking—and smelling—like 14th Century London. Our quality of life depends far more on these laborers and craftsmen than on your stockbroker’s alleged ability to make you rich. Your money’s only good to buy things someone else has made; the least we can do is respect the people who make them.

There’s a lot more to doing any task well than meets the eye. My father and brother—high school graduates both—were intimately familiar with construction and engineering principles I’d never heard of. They’re not engineers, but their lay knowledge of stress and load bearing was vital, considering this shed was built to be disassembled, transported to my home, and re-assembled by the likes of me. That took not just skill, but foresight. (“What’s that dumb ass likely to do here?”)

Is a PhD in English a worthy endeavor? Absolutely. It’s just not critical. Is a PhD in English worth a shit if there’s no one to manufacture, run, and maintain the publishing equipment? Should anyone complain because they have a PhD in anything and can’t get a job that pays more than an “unskilled” laborer? The PhD was your choice, pal. Man up.

This isn’t to argue which jobs are “better” or “worthier” than others; it’s to remind us everyone has their role to play, and we’d do well not to underestimate the importance of any link of the chain. White collar jobs are not inherently worth more to society than blue collar jobs. Besides, when’s the last time a garbage collector screwed people out of $50 billion?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Remembering What's Important

The reckoning is coming for health care reform is near, and there’s one group of vocal whack jobs who need to get their minds right in a hurry if anything worthwhile is going to get accomplished: the extreme left. To be precise, those on the left who claim they’d rather have no bill than a bill without a public option.

Frankly, I think a public option would be a good idea. People can opt in if they want, then time will decide whether it’s a viable alternative. (Private insurers and those who think the government can’t run anything should be in favor of it; according to them, it should be bereft of customers in a couple of years.) That doesn’t mean we can’t live without it. What’s needed now is to ensure everyone gets coverage, that no one loses their coverage because they have the bad manners to need it, and that no one lose everything because they got sick and their bills went over an arbitrary insurance cap. That’s what is important.

But no, these left wing loons have decided they’ve been on the outside looking in long enough. Obama won the election! Everything is completely different! Grow up, people. Even if he was some kind of messiah—which he’s not—he can’t rule by fiat. Bills still have to be passed the old-fashioned way. Too many of these vocal lefties forget the object is to do the most good for the most people. They’ve decided they want it all, or nothing. If they’re not careful, nothing is what they’ll get, and 46.5 million people will still be uninsured. Preferring ideological purity to effectiveness is what got the Republicans in their current state; Democrats aren’t immune.

If they want to get into a pissing contest about something, insist on the end-of-life counseling provisions. The “death panels” were pulled back because of brazen cowardice on the left after despicable misrepresentations by the right. You want to stand up for something, here’s your chance.

It’s not like a failure to get a public option now creates a Constitutional amendment against one. (There isn’t a Constitutional amendment against health care, no matter how creatively Michele Bachmann interprets her copy.) You can come back in five years if the current bill doesn’t work well enough. No law is immutable, except for those accounting for stupidity and cupidity on either extreme of the political spectrum.

Seventeen and Counting

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a team in the National League since 1887, and were champions in 1901 and 1902. There was no World Series then; they won their first in 1909, beating Detroit four games to three. Their next appearance was in 1925, when they overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Washington Senators. In 1927 they served as fodder for the juggernaut Yankees, considered by many to be the greatest baseball team of all time.

Lean years followed. The Pirates lost 100 games three years in a row in the Fifties, no mean feat when you remember teams only played 154 games a year then. In 1960 they surprised everyone by winning the National League pennant for the first time since 1927, then beat the Yankees four games to three, despite losing by scores of 10-0, 13-1, and 16-3. Bill Mazeroski’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 won the game 10-9, and is still the only walk-off home run to end a seventh game. Many consider this the greatest World Series game ever played.

The decade of the 1970s were the Pirates’ glory years. They won six division titles and two World Series (1971 and 1979), both times overcoming 3-1 deficits to beat Baltimore. Baseball’s cocaine scandals hit Pittsburgh hard, and the team suffered for it until General Manager Syd Thrift and Manager Jim Leyland put together a team that won three straight Eastern Division titles 1990-1992.

The Pirates have not won as many games as they lost in any season since.

A perfect cesspool of cheap ownership, inept management, and bad play culminated this week in a seventeenth consecutive losing season. No team in any major North American sports league has such a record for futility, and Year 18 is virtually guaranteed by the young and marginally talented roster. The longest World Series drought—33 years, from 1927-1960—will surely be surpassed. (1979 is the most recent appearance.)

Pittsburgh deserves much better. Aside from its five world championships, many Pirate players’ names are spoken with reverence by baseball cognoscenti. Honus Wagner, one of the first truly great players, still considered by some historians to be the greatest shortstop of all time, and one of the original five players in the Hall of Fame. Mazeroski, considered by many to be the greatest fielding secondbaseman ever. Roberto Clemente had 3,000 hits, won four batting titles, twelve Gold Gloves, and was named to twelve All-Star teams. Willie Stargell hit more home runs over the right field roof of Forbes Field than all other players combined.

Now the Pirates are a glorified minor league team, developing players to be traded to teams serious about winning just before free agency escalates their salaries. It’s a shame. They play in a beautiful ballpark, in a city that supports decent sports teams as well as any. The diehard fan base is still there. The farm system has players with great potential, but how many will be allowed to achieve it in Pittsburgh? Current management swears it has a plan, that it doesn’t just want to build a team that can eke out a winning record, but a champion. Nothing we haven’t heard before.

For someone who grew up watching the Pirates in the Seventies, this is hard to take.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Enough is Enough

In the 1950s I would have been called a New England Republican: social liberal, fiscal conservative. I think government exists to help people with the things they can’t take care of themselves, and that everyone’s position should be viewed as though it was happening to me, or someone close to me. I also think we need to be able to pay for anything we do. The only personal debt I have is my mortgage.

Another term would have been added to me in the Sixties: pragmatist. We can try whatever looks promising, but it has to work. I'm okay with increased law enforcement as a means to combat drug usage in this country. I do have issues with our insistence on doing more of the same when it hasn’t worked all that well in forty years.

As the nation has moved right, these opinions of mine have categorized me as a Capital L Liberal, which is fine. What is not fine is the evolution of "liberal" into meaning a weak-kneed pussy who has no choice but to put up with whatever tripe those on the other side of the spectrum choose to sling.

We’ve all seen pictures of the signs made that show Obama with a Hitler mustache. Yesterday was the first time I saw one in person, as I was accosted by someone ranting about whether this was who I wanted as my president. Something about that moment hit me. I’m not sure why, but in that second something in me decided enough is enough.

I never drank the Obama Kool-Aid. I didn’t vote for him in the primary, and I voted for him in the general election because I truly believed he was a better choice to run the country than McCain, not because I thought he was The Messiah. I am less then enamored of his performance in office, though I think he’s done a generally good job considering the pile of shit he was handed. This is not a reaction to people picking on my president.

What I’ve had enough of are lies and distortions. People on either side of the argument blatantly ignoring, misrepresenting, or making up “facts.” I am always willing to debate and discuss an issue, so long as both sides are debating in good faith. No one learns anything by talking; we learn by listening. Listening to lies and half-truths won’t work for anyone. As for the media’s current attempts to be “fair and balanced” by reporting what each side says and leaving it at that, there’s a quote from The Wire that sums it up: A lie isn’t another side of the story. It’s just a lie.

The First Amendment exists for exactly this reason, so everyone can make their point. We do it a disservice, and disrespect those who have sacrificed to protect it, when we hide behind it to spread falsehoods. I’m sick of listening to, and have no stomach for addressing, the more egregious examples as they occur. With that in mind, I’m going to exercise my First Amendment rights and provide my final answers to some of the worst trespasses.

To those who argue this year’s health care reform legislation had provision for “death panels” and encouraged euthanasia:

Fuck you.

To those who deny all evidence to the contrary and insist Obama has not adequately proven he was born in the United States:

Fuck you.

To those who bemoan the deficits accrued by the stimulus and stayed silent while the previous administration ran up comparable debts on tax cuts:

Fuck you.

To those who would deny gay couples the marriage rights you have in the name of “defending marriage,” yet cannot show one heterosexual marriage that has been damaged, or even cite one cogent reason why giving gays the right to marry would affect anyone else in any way:

Fuck you.

To those who would depict the President of the United States (or any member of his family) as a monkey, or use any other racial slurs:

Fuck you, racist bastard.

I’m still happy to debate and discuss anything. I’m not just going to lie around and listen to some of this bullshit anymore.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

You Can't Be Too Careful

Are you ready for the Rapture, but concerned about your pets who will will be left behind with the other unbelievers? Don't trouble yourself. Here's a service that will put all your fears to rest. Anxious the person entrusted with your pet may be inadvertently saved himself? No worries. Just read this, from the Frequently Asked Questions page:

How do you ensure your representatives won't be Raptured?
Actually, we don't ensure it, they do. Each of our representatives has stated to us in writing that they are atheists, do not believe in God / Jesus, and that they have blasphemed in accordance with Mark 3:29, negating any chance of salvation.

The Home Office wishes to thank the Show Tunes Correspondent for pointing out this valuable service. You're welcome, and have a blessed day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Don't Do the Crime If You Can't Do the Time

A lot of people are upset that New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress got two years for carrying an unlicensed handgun into a New York nightclub and accidentally shooting himself in the leg. More than one site has claimed Burress is being made an example because of his celebrity.

What we don’t know is the average sentence handed out in New York for the same offense. The charge carries a mandatory three-and-a-half years if it goes to a jury that returns a guilty verdict. Burress had no argument to make in his defense—hard to deny anything when the smoking gun is in your pants and your leg’s bleeding—so the prosecution could drive a hard bargain.

Was Burress’s sentence excessive? Let’s say yes, just for the sake of argument. Has he not enjoyed untold benefits from that same celebrity? He’s received perks and privileges beyond what any “normal” person can expect; more than some of them can imagine. He and his apologists have never complained about those excesses. Let’s not put up with too much of it now.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's Left Unsaid

Ezra Klein is fast becoming an elite blogger, what others should aspire to: someone who can do his own reporting and put what he finds into perspective. Today he posted on the true costs of political calculus.

Be Careful What You Ask For

In 2004, alarmed at the prospect of Mitt Romney appointing a replacement for John Kerry should he become president, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law stripping the governor of the power to fill vacant Senate seats, demanding a special election to be held no fewer than 145 days after the seat becomes vacant. The law never had to be applied.

Now Ted Kennedy has asked the legislature to amend the law to allow Governor Deval Patrick to appoint an interim Senator to fill the gap between the time Kennedy may be unable to serve and the election, so the “Commonwealth [will] have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election."

Of course, it’s health care reform that’s on Kennedy’s mind. He’s the magic 60th vote the Democrats need to invoke cloture in the event of a Republican filibuster. That vote won’t wait five months. Even if Kennedy resigned today, it would be too late.

This is why it’s never a good idea to change established law to accommodate a temporary situation. Massachusetts panicked at the prospect of Republican Romney appointing Kerry’s replacement; their remedy now prevents Democrat (and Obama supporter) Patrick from appointing Kennedy’s.

Republicans who were hot to do away with filibusters several years ago would do well to remember this. No political situation is permanent. Without the threat of filibuster in the Senate, they’d be powerless to stop a health care bill they’d like even less than any of the current options. Not saying whether that’s a good things, or a bad thing. Just that it’s wise to remember the sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

An Open Letter

I just sent the following letter to my Congressman and both Senators:

Dear [Majority Leader Hoyer/Senator Mikulski/Senator Cardin],

I am a constituent who lives in Laurel, though no longer a registered Democrat. I changed my affiliation to Independent last month in disgust over the party’s ineffectiveness after over thirty years as a loyal Democrat. How the Republican minority is able to derail essential legislation after larger Democratic minorities were unable to act as more than inconveniences to the previous Republican majorities is disheartening. Health care legislation s an opportunity to show Democrats not only have their hearts and heads in the right place, but are willing to take some risks to stand up for their beliefs.

The protesters who have disrupted town hall meetings do not represent the mainstream of American thought. Their arguments are not just wrong; they’re nonsensical. Many of their comments don’t even relate to the issue. Saying they “don’t want we love taken away from us” implies the America they love is unconcerned that our children and the elderly die from diseases and conditions that are routinely treated in other, less “developed” countries. Don’t just stand there, shocked at their incivility. Call them on it.

The radio hosts and pundits who speak of “death panels” and “rationing of care” aren’t just mistaken; they lie. Their comments are not different interpretation of the facts; they are, at best, gross distortions. At worst, they are lies. Call them on it

American voters elected a Democratic president and solid majorities in each house of Congress because they wanted things to be different. Bipartisan agreement is much to be desired, but we didn’t vote Democratic in the interests of bipartisanship. We voted for results, and we’re not getting them.

I see in today’s news the “death panels” have been removed from consideration because of the furor surrounding them. Shame on you. Are you so concerned with what is politically expedient you have lost touch with what is right? Let some of these “controversial” points come to the floor for argument. Force the opposition to make their comments for the record, so history may judge them, as it will judge you if this opportunity is allowed to pass.

The majority of the American people have handed you a great opportunity. Please do not let a vocal, unrepresentative fringe deny us what so many around the world take for granted.


This Could Be Fun

Baltimore's future practice squad players beat Washington's future practice squad players 23-0 last night in the initial exhibition--excuse me--pre-season game for each team. Pre-season football is usually below my radar, but one thing about this result gives me hope for the future.

I can imagine Redskins owner "Chainsaw" Danny Snyder standing in his luxury box with that look on his face he gets when the Redskins are taking the pipe. Few things in life give me more unadulterated pleasure than seeing Danny get the red ass.

If the Redskins stink, this football season could be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

(How Not To) Build a Fan Base

The final father-daughter pre-college activity with the Sole Heir will be a day at the museum of her choosing, followed by a ball game. Today was ticket purchase day, and a reminder if why I don’t go to nearly as many baseball games as I used to.

First stop, the Nats’ web site. You can specify general location by price, and how many tickets. The computer tells you where you’ll sit, and you’ll like it. Take it or leave it. It told me to sit in Section 314, Row H. These seats are just a smidge to the right of home plate, but I’d rather sit a little farther up the line if I could be closer to the front of a section. Too bad for me. Ten years ago you could visit a team’s web site and see the view from your prospective seat. Thirty years ago I walked into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and get the specific seats I asked for from a man holding cardboard tickets. Now you can’t even pick a section.

I asked the system for different tickets in the same price range. Section 314, Row H. I sensed a whiff if irritability from my monitor, as though the web site was put out over my audacity in challenging its judgment.

I called the Nats’ ticket office and explained my situation to a (barely) living person. He didn’t seem too enthused, and pretended to be surprised at my inability to choose specific seats. I told him what my tradeoffs were, and he asked what section I wanted to sit in. I said the stadium map does not have section numbers, and I didn’t have a specific section in mind, just somewhere I could sit closer to the front.

“Well, man, you have to give me a section number,” he said.

“No, I don’t,” I said, and hung up.

Back to the web site, where I grabbed my ankles and took the final insult. In order for you, the paying customer, to fully appreciate the convenience of no longer being able to choose your seat, charges a $4.50 convenience fee. Per seat. That does not include the $3.50 Order Processing Fee. Nor does it include the $1.75 they charge you to print your own tickets at home. Sum total for two $24 tickets: $62.25, a 30% markup.

Even better, these charges are non-refundable, even if the event is canceled. That’s no big deal for baseball games; they have rain checks. also handles other events, such as concerts. What they’re telling you is, if you happen to have seats for the night Christie Brinkley decides to take Billy Joel back and he ditches the gig, you’re still out the fees. Using our example, that would mean you spent $14 not to go to a concert that didn’t take place. Organized crime has a name for that kind of operation.

It’s not like people are mugging season ticket holders to get into Nats games. Even after a recent eight-game winning streak they’re on pace for a 57-105 record. Two full-time players have higher batting averages than the Nats’ winning percentage. Their five years in DC have produced one non-losing season, when they went 81-81 in 2005. The owners withheld rent payments for several months last year. The ballpark is nice, but it’s no Camden Yards or PNC Park. Management’s sense of entitlement is beyond unbecoming.

We’ll have fun, because The Sole Heir and I always have fun at a ball game. We’re not going to have so much fun that I make dealing with the Washington Nationals a regular source of sporting entertainment, not with the Bowie Bay Sox fifteen miles from my house. Given the Nationals’ record, it’s not like a AA team will play inferior baseball.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Neighbors Make Good Fences, Too

From, courtesy of the Show Tunes Correspondent.

SEVERN -- Police said Tuesday that a woman came across a yard sale that included some familiar items -- her own.

Officers responded to the woman's house last week in the 800 block of Reece Road. The woman, whose name wasn't released, told Anne Arundel County police that her home and shed had been burglarized and that a "significant amount" of property had been stolen.

Two days later, she noticed the yard sale taking place just a few houses away and observed that items being sold had been stolen from her during the burglary, police said.

Detectives obtained a search warrant and recovered about $25,000 worth of the victim's property, which was returned to her.

David Anthony Perticone, 46, was charged with first-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary and theft, police said.

A Rational Voice in the Wilderness

The health care debate is too important for name calling and lies, yet that's what a lot of the opposition has come to. Sarah Palin recently wrote on her Facebook page:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

There's no other way to say it: her comments about "death panels" is a lie. It's not a difference of opinion. It's not a matter of perspective or context. She made it up out of whole cloth for her own political purposes, which is reprehensible, no matter which side she comes down on. Downright evil, even.

For the facts of this aspect of the health care debate, here's the transcript from today's Washington Post of an interview between Post blogger Ezra Klein and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). That's right; he's a Republican.

EK: Is this bill going to euthanize my grandmother? What are we talking about here?

JI: In the health-care debate mark-up, one of the things I talked about was that the most money spent on anyone is spent usually in the last 60 days of life and that's because an individual is not in a capacity to make decisions for themselves. So rather than getting into a situation where the government makes those decisions, if everyone had an end-of-life directive or what we call in Georgia "durable power of attorney," you could instruct at a time of sound mind and body what you want to happen in an event where you were in difficult circumstances where you're unable to make those decisions.
This has been an issue for 35 years. All 50 states now have either durable powers of attorney or end-of-life directives and it's to protect children or a spouse from being put into a situation where they have to make a terrible decision as well as physicians from being put into a position where they have to practice defensive medicine because of the trial lawyers. It's just better for an individual to be able to clearly delineate what they want done in various sets of circumstances at the end of their life.

EK: How did this become a question of euthanasia?

JI: I have no idea. I understand -- and you have to check this out -- I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin's web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up.

EK: You're saying that this is not a question of government. It's for individuals.

JI: It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.

EK: The policy here as I understand it is that Medicare would cover a counseling session with your doctor on end-of-life options.

JI: Correct. And it's a voluntary deal.

EK: It seems to me we're having trouble conducting an adult conversation about death. We pay a lot of money not to face these questions. We prefer to experience the health-care system as something that just saves you, and if it doesn't, something has gone wrong.

JI: Over the last three-and-a-half decades, this legislation has been passed state-by-state, in part because of the tort issue and in part because of many other things. It's important for an individual to make those determinations while they're of sound mind and body rather than no one making those decisions at all. But this discussion has been going on for three decades.

EK: And the only change we'd see is that individuals would have a counseling session with their doctor?

JI: Uh-huh. When they become eligible for Medicare.

EK: Are there other costs? Parts of it I'm missing?

JI: No. The problem you got is that there's so much swirling around about health care and people are taking bits and pieces out of this. This was thoroughly debated in the Senate committee. It's voluntary. Every state in America has an end of life directive or durable power of attorney provision. For the peace of mind of your children and your spouse as well as the comfort of knowing the government won't make these decisions, it's a very popular thing. Just not everybody's aware of it.

EK:What got you interested in this subject?

JI: I've seen the pain and suffering in families with a loved one with a traumatic brain injury or a crippling degenerative disease become incapacitated and be kept alive under very difficult circumstances when if they'd have had the chance to make the decision themself they'd have given another directive and I've seen the damage financially that's been done to families and if there's a way to prevent that by you giving advance directives it's both for the sanity of the family and what savings the family has it's the right decision, certainly more than turning it to the government or a trial lawyer.