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.