Monday, October 31, 2005

Justice Scalito

Manifesto

Well, President Bush has nominated a right winger who seems intent on overturning Roe, Judge Samual Alito. I'm not going to parse through his record here. Others can and will do it better. Instead, I'm going to make a statement to all those moderate Republicans out there who still vote Republican. In conversations over the years, moderate Republicans (Christie Whitman, Arlen Specter, Rudy Guiliani, etc.) always supported the Bush administration despite their disagreements over key issues (global warming, abortion, size of the federal government, etc.) Whitman even wrote a book about this phenomenon.

I've never understood this. If the party you are a member of espouses multiple beliefs that are completely contrary to what you believe, how (or better, why) are you a member of that party? The only issue that these moderate Republicans seem to be in agreement with the modern Republican party is stated desire to limit government. I say stated because it is apparent from the Bush years that limited government now means limited revenues (low taxes for the rich) but bloated expenses (more spending on the military-industrial complex).

The modern Republican party is supposed to be the party of values. But it is apparent that many moderate Republicans value their wealth over their expressed beliefs. They have completely allowed the radical Republicans to dictate extreme beliefs that they supposedly don't believe in. Yet, they keep voting with the Party. Their excuse is that they don't believe that the radicals will ever be able to implement their beliefs.

Well, moderate Republicans, your years of complicity with the radical Right has led to where we are now, about to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who not only doesn't believe that the Constitution protects the right of women to have an abortion, but also doesn't believe that the Constitution forbids the state from criminalizing birth control.

So thank you, moderate Republicans. You stood by your party as it drifted further and further to the Right. Through thick and thin you were loyal soldiers, expressing doubts and reservations, but never reserving your vote from the G.O.P. And now, your loyalty to the G.O.P. is being rewarded in a way completely contrary to your expressed beliefs. Well, at least you still have your tax cuts. You can use that money to buy yourself something nice when your sons and daughters hold you responsible for what the radicals have done to the nation.

REVIEW: Jon Stewart

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

The wife and I (along with some friends) went to see Jon Stewart perform live at our local Indian casino over the weekend. It was at Foxwoods in Ledyard, Connecticut. After walking through the most depressing slot machine arena in history, we went into the Fox Theater with about 2500 other Daily Show fanatics and waited for our favorite critic/comedian chime in about the newly indicted "Scooter" Libby, among other things.

He did not disappoint. His first bit was all about Scooter and the amazing realization that "people in our government seemed to have been lying to us." I'd say the first half of the 70 minute show was along these lines, jokes about politicians and incompetent news coverage. Towards the end, he strayed away to more general humor, like how some people like to have sex with pinatas. (It was a donkey, so I'm not sure if this makes the guy a Republican, Democrat.) I'm not going to repeat any jokes or punchlines since it will only make him sound not funny.

His delivery is a lot different live than on TV. He more calm, more conversational. He held the mic very close to his mouth and seemed to talk very softly. Occasionally, he would lose it and feign outrage, but most of the time he played the bemused observer, quietly listing all the things that make this world crazy.

I had a great time. The show was very funny and we even got to hear him swear a few times. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Final Four

SPORTING GOODS

The UConn Huskies still have a shot at the Final Four, as Marcus Williams has only been suspended through January 1. AJ Price got the full year off. The Huskies biggest question mark is their point guard situation, so getting Williams back is obviously huge news.

It is also huge news for the student sections at various opposing universities. I hope we'll get to hear some creative chants directed at Mr. Williams come January.

I'm not sure if he got off too light, mostly because I don't know all the details, but it really was a no-win situation for Calhoun, UConn, and Williams and this seems to be the middle-ground. The nice thing is, that the Huskies probably won't miss him at all after the first couple weeks of the season, as UConn goes through their annual run of playing the American School for the Deaf at home, or whoever they schedule throughout December.

Duke-haters rejoice, as there is at least one team that is good enough to knock off the #1 Blue Devils this year.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Paying attention?

Manifesto

So CNN reports that the Republican angle to explain why there will be no Congressional investigations into the White House leak is... wait for it ..., lack of criminal conduct.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said the investigation showed no one in the White House did anything illegal.

"Apparently, they didn't violate the law in setting the record straight," Graham told CBS's "Face the Nation." "The allegation is that when they told the grand jury about the process they made some misstatements and false allegations."
In the article, the Democrat response cited is a mild one from my senior Senator Chuck Schumer. There is no other refutation of this statement. Admittedly, if Democrats can't explain the illogic of this attack then they don't deserve to win an election. But should the Democrats even have to explain? Or should the media have a memory span of more than 2 days. From Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Press Conference on Friday:
QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, this began as a leak investigation but no one is charged with any leaking. Is your investigation finished? Is this another leak investigation that doesn't lead to a charge of leaking?

[...]

FITZGERALD: Or did they intend to do something else and where are the shades of gray?

And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked their view.

As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it.

So what you were saying is the harm in an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make.

I also want to take away from the notion that somehow we should take an obstruction charge less seriously than a leak charge.

This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter. But the need to get to the bottom of what happened and whether national security was compromised by inadvertence, by recklessness, by maliciousness is extremely important. We need to know the truth. And anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime.
Wow. So Fitzgerald himself says that one reason there is no criminal charge for the actual leak may be because Scooter Libby obstructed his investigation. He couldn't prove a crime was committed because of the obstruction. The investigation didn't prove that the White House did nothing illegal, just that a crime couldn't be charged because of the other illegal things that the White House did. In fact, Fitzgerald, the man bringing the charges, says that the need to get to the bottom of the actual leak is "extremely important."

Now, I remembered this statement despite hearing the conference on the radio while busily doing other work. Amazingly, the unnamed author of this story at CNN, whose job it is to actually cover these events, doesn't have the same memory. Either I'm some kind of superman or the media is so lazy in reporting that it believes every word spoken by anybody, fact-checking be damned. And, as everyone who reads the blog and hundreds of others can attest, I'm no superman. So here you go CNN, here's a link to Fitzgerald's press conference. Read this, study it, and actually begin to do some reporting. Thanks.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Interesting Angle


Manifesto

I know I've railed against CNN in the past, and I admit that I only look at the negative and not the positive. But can anybody explain to me, how on the day the Vice President's Chief of Staff is indicted on two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements, and an overarching count of obstruction of justice, this is CNN's headline?

So CNN's angle in this case is that Libby feels bad. Really? Now, to be fair, the underlying story discusses many of these issues and CNN's reporting this week has been good, but I just don't get this headline. Why am I supposed to care how Libby feels? I understand interviewing him and conveying his reaction, but how is this the headline? Can anybody out there offer a justification other than mine, that this is simply an example of the worst parts of the modern media, the idea that everything is a human interest story.

"A sad day for me and my family." No s#@!. Way to break a story, CNN.

Don't Eff with the Onion

Whatever

This is why you never, ever talk back to somebody that can have the last word. Although why do I think that this story is not over yet.

(Link originally found over at Eschaton)

Final World Series thoughts

SPORTING GOODS

I think everyone can agree that the better team won, and that the White Sox were probably better than everyone thought, or at least peaked at exactly the right time. 99 wins, and then 11-1 in the postseason. That is a good team.

One final bit of info, and then I can start on the path to forgetting who even won in 2005. Last year, I pointed out some analysis done on "win probabilities" that suggested that Manny Ramirez was the wrong choice for World Series MVP, most notably because his outfield butchery in game 1 nearly cost the team the game.

Well, over at Hardball Times, they have done a similar analysis this year, that suggests that World Series MVP Jermaine Dye actually did more than anyone else to help the White Sox win. Blum, Crede, Konerko, Garcia, and crew all added quite a bit as well, it really was a team effort.

On the other side, sucking was a team effort. Lance Berkman may have actually been the MVP of the series, except they generally don't give it to a guy whose team has been swept. But Morgan Ensberg, Craig Biggio, and Adam Everett killed the Astros, almost as much as Ezequiel Astacio did when he gave up two runs in the top of the 14th.

Update: edited to fix the game that Astacio screwed up. Thanks guys.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Yer Out!

MANIFESTO

Miers has finally accepted reality from someone other than the Boy King and has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court clearing the way for Bush to nominate Judge Judy.

BK can't even buy any good news lately, can he?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

It is starting

Manifesto

See my comment from B's The Italian Job below. It appears my request is being answered.

We Report, You Thrown Up a Little in Your Mouth


MANIFESTO

If you're like me and hate the fear-mongering over at Fox News (who doesn't?), then this is utterly hilarious. If you like Fox, then this should come as your wakeup call to get into the reality-based community. We'll take you back, you'll just have to listen to a lot of Franken.

The Italian Job

MANIFESTO


So much to read about the pending indictments. Almost like Christmas for democrats. Could there finally be some sign of justice...or the hint that justice is on the horizon? Well, looks like it won't be today, but hopefully by the end of the week.

Thanks to SJ for the link. Here's an interesting article from the LA Times about the case. I hadn't read much about this before, but they do briefly mention the Italian angle. This being that the Italians provided the info about the Niger stuff to US and Britain, but knew that it was forged. So, did Hadley know it was forged when he included it in the now infamous State of the Union anyway? Bad stuff for sure. What I fear is that many of us now firmly believe the war was started on a farce and not a mistake, so I hope it doesn't lose it's impact among the public.

REVIEW: I Heart Huckabees


UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I loved David O. Russel's last two films. Flirting with Disaster was hilarious and Three Kings was tremendous. Unfortunately, I Heart Huckabees is a total failure. I'm not going to get into the plot other than it is about Jason Schwartzman hiring "existential detectives" Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin to help him understand a coincidence that has just happened. This sounds interesting, but it is just an excuse for the actors (Mark Wahlberg, Jude Law, Isabelle Huppert and Naomi Watts) to spout near-unintellible dialogue about molecules and how the whole universe is connected and other bullshit. This is a film made for philosophy students by philosophy students. If that's your bag, go for it. I'm sure you will have hours of stuff to talk about while you sit at a coffee bar in your black turtleneck smoking unfiltered cigarettes. For me, I wish I had rewatched Three Kings. In recent memory, I'm not sure I can remember a better cast more wasted than this one. (Please post any thoughts on this.)

And no, TB, Mark Wahlberg was not Oscar-worthy. My initial impression was correct, thank you very much.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

US Cell-ular

SPORTING GOODS

Three things come to mind when reading this wacky story:
Biggio said his wife, Patty, wasn't hurt. He said the fan slapped his wife then tried to run away -- before the player's brother-in-law ended up "putting him against the wall."
What the hell is wrong with fans at US Cellular, do they pump in "a-hole gas" into the crowd during the games?
"It was one guy who acted like a 12-year-old, who slapped her upside the head," said Biggio. "I'm not going to sit here and hold all the Chicago fans accountable for this for one guy who was acting like an idiot."
Wow, a classy and rational response from a professional athlete: how refreshing!
"I know the security in Chicago is doing a great job and when something happens so quickly, you can't blame anybody," Guillen said. "And the guy that did it, he should be rought to Biggio and he's the one who can hopefully get him back. "I told the police, 'Don't put him in jail, bring him to me in the dugout,"' Guillen said. "Hopefully, that won't happen again."
Ozzie Guillen is definitely a bit crazy. But if he was my manager, I'd be happy to say, "yeah, but at least he's our crazy."

Herein Lies the Truth

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Al Franken's The Truth (with Jokes) comes out today. A preview:

Iraq: They told us that when we invaded, we'd be greeted with sweets and flowers. They left out the crucial modifier: "exploding."

Gay marriage: George W. Bush wants to amend our Constitution to make it illegal for gays to marry. But evidently, he has no problem with terrorists getting married. America can't afford a president who is soft on terrorist marriage. Because unlike gays, terrorists can breed.

Bush's 9/11 bait and switch: Bin Laden must have been furious. Here he had gone to all this trouble to murder thousands of Americans, and Saddam---Saddam, the infidel!---was getting all the credit! Who was the head of al Qaeda?! Who was funding al Qaeda?! Somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border there was a very angry terrorist mastermind.

Moral values: From what I understand, if you cut out all the passages in the Bible where Jesus talks about the poor, about helping out the least among us, you'd have the perfect container to smuggle Rush Limbaugh's drugs in.

I'm looking forward to reading Chill's copy when he is finished.

Monday, October 24, 2005

US-Centric

MANIFESTO

You don't realize how US centric the news here is, until you need other information. With the site of my wedding (in less than 3 weeks) potentially being smashed by a hurricane earlier this afternoon, we'd get some great commentary from the Weather Channel about how "the storm is thankfully no longer over land."

That was true, if your definition of "land" is "US land" and doesn't include major tourist destinations and home of hundreds of thousands of people, like the Bahamas.

World Series

Sporting Goods

Between the late game heroics and the insane umpiring that the Pale Hose have been benefiting from all playoffs long, is there any doubt who is going to win this series?

After how upset this region (and Chicago) were over the election results in early November 2004, seeing Texas get some mid-Autumn disappointment doesn't break my heart.

However, I would just love for Killingworth, CT son Jeff Bagwell to pop a home run in one of these games.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Get Your War On

Manifesto

New Get Your War On. Ehh.

Friday, October 21, 2005

This Fall's Biggest Hit!



MANIFESTO

I can go all day with this.

(Thanks to AP for helping with the title.)

Extra Piggies

WHATEVER

Halle Berry has an extra toe on at least one fo her feet. I'm not kidding. Someone needs to get Katie Couric on this right away.

(Okay, I can't be sure if this is a fake or not, but it looks real. And I always trust my lyin' eyes.)

Why Are These Men Smiling?


MANIFESTO

Irresistable.

America's Most Wanted


MANIFESTO

I'm a little disappointed with this "mugshot." Who did DeLay bribe to get one like this? Why isn't he holding a sign with his name, date, and social security number? This this looks like it was taken at Penny's.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Very Bad Idea

MANIFESTO

This is self-explanatory.

REVIEW: The Colbert Report


UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Stephen Colbert has long been my favorite part of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His take on pompous, overly loud journalists is classic. (And his God Machine bit, complete with fake beep-a-doop-eep game show sound effects is brilliant.) I particularly like the way he over-enunciates everything, which is more Stone Phillips than Bill O'Reilly. If anyone on that show deserves a spin off, it's him.

And so it's here. The Colbert Report is very, very funny but I worry that it will get a little tiring. Whereas as Jon Stewart has a seperation between himself and the news he is making fun of, Colbert is the joke. And unlike The Daily Show, there are no correspondents to cut to, there's just him. But if you're like me and Colbert is your favorite part of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report should be right up your alley.

The show's opening montage is a wonderful send up of everything Fox News. Complete with a crazy animated eagle, Colbert waving a flag, words like "Integrity" and "Grippy" floating around, it is a perfect satire of cable shows that are constantly pulling out yardsticks to measure how patriotic they are. And his set is a small wonder. As he pointed out in the first episode Monday, his name is plastered everywhere and the desk is shaped like a giant "C." But my favorite sight gag was when he stood in front of a painting of himself standing in front of a painting of himself. (Get it?) He and his producers seem to have really thought things through.
"Like any good newsman, I believe that if you're not scared, I'm not doing my job," he says as he stares into the camera with the righteous certainty of a man unconfused by the facts. "There's a whole big world to fix," he said. "There's nothing to fear but fear itself. I'll change that."
Perfect. His first monologue was hugely promising, both funny and a pointed commentary. (To see it, go here and click on "Truthiness." You may need to click through to the "video" section.)

Anybody who knows me knows that I am no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They're elitist for constantly telling us what is or isn't true, what did or didn't happen...I don't trust books. They're all fact and no heart. And that's exactly what's pulling our country apart today. Because face it, folks, we are a divided nation... We are divided by those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart.

Consider Harriett Miers. If you think about Harriett Miers, of course her nomination's absurd! But the President didn't say he thought about this selection, he said this:

President Bush: "I know her heart."

Notice that he didn't say anything about her brain? He didn't have to. He feels the truth about Harriett Miers. And what about Iraq? If you think about it, maybe there are a few missing pieces to the rationale for war. But doesn't taking Saddam out feel like the right thing...right here in the gut? Because that's where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen...the gut.

Did you know that you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now, somebody's gonna say `I did look that up and its wrong'. Well, Mister, that's because you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that's how our nervous system works.

Now I know some of you may not trust your gut...yet. But with my help you will. The "truthiness" is, anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news...at you.

That's the deal. It's certainly worth a look. My guess is Colbert will tone down the act a little (like he seemed to in his interview with Leslie Stahl on Tuesday). But for anyone who hates loudmouth know-nothings like Bill O'Reilly and Limbaugh, this show is for you. It's on Monday through Thursday at 11:30 on Comedy Central. Post your thoughts.

ASIDE: Did anyone see the aforementioned O'Reilly on The Daily Show last night? (I think it re-airs tonight at 7 if you're interested.) He actually seemed kind of mad at Jon Stewart. Stewart, to his credit, never took the bait. And he got off a great zinger. Admitting that while he "added insult to injury" when making fun of the news, O'Reilly just "added more injury."

And how pathetic is O'Reilly's continued anger at the French?

UPDATE (7:41 pm): Watch the humorless douche in action.

Fare Play

WHATEVER

The MTA in New York City is proposing to discount fares on everything from bus to subway to commuter trains for the month between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day to help encourage people to use public transportation for the busiest time of the year.

As a subway rider who uses an unlimited monthly card, they will add an extra week onto my card for free (as long as it is purchased in December).

This is pretty sweet and seems to be unprecedented. I also appreciate how it is being done because there is a surplus of almost a billion dollars. Of course, if it were up to me, I would spend the money to have more trains running on the weekends. But I admit this plan is probably better for the majority of people who use these services.

We'll see if it passes.

Update your bookmarks

Sporting Goods

Hey Sox fans, Deadspin has sorted through the 100s of Red Sox blogs out there and rated the top three, so that you don't have to. I'm not surprised by the first two, and obviously need to start reading the third.

1. Soxaholix - this is the "cartoon" blog that I've linked to before.
2. Surviving Grady - always good for a laugh.
3. Fire Brand of the American League - wow, that's a long title!

False Fitzmas

Manifesto

On my walk to work I pass by a hotel with a flatscreen in the window. Today, the were showing CNN with the headline "Prosecutor releases evidece." Well, my pace quickened as I thought that Patrick Fitzgerald brought indictments. But no, false alarm, just some garbage relating to Saddam Hussein.

I can't wait for Fitzmas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fast Start

Sporting Goods

The Mets have just improved their chances of getting off to a fast start next year, as "The Run Fairy" Felix Heredia has been suspended for the first 10 games of the season, for steroid use.

It just goes to prove that steroids, no matter how helpful they might be, can not make you a good pitcher on their own.

Monday, October 17, 2005

End of a short era

Manifesto

When I first got into reading blogs at some point in 2003, Pandagon was one of my favorites, and Jesse Taylor was my favorite contributor to the site. While I don't have as much time to read their long, well-thought out posts as I used to, I'm sad to see that Jesse is hanging his blogging spikes up.

REVIEW: Capote


UNIVERSAL REMOTE

If Bennett Miller's Capote is remembered for one thing, it is going to be because of Philip Seymour Hoffman's breakout performance as Truman Capote. He is absolutely spellbinding as the famous author investigating the Kansas killings that became his seminal book, In Cold Blood. It's an amazing performance of an amazing character. Capote was a Southern, homosexual, egomaniacal, ruthlessly ambitious celebrity author from the upper classes of New York who was also short, fat and talked really funny. It's no wonder why someone would want to make a film about a character as rich as this.

The heart of the film is Capote's relationship with killer Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.). The way Capote seemingly falls in love with the wounded murderer, while at the same time manipulating him to get the necesary details for his book is the best part of the film. Capote's ruthless devotion to his own ambition is breathtaking. (He actually looks forward to the killers being executed so he can have an ending for his story.) Entertainment Weekly's great Owen Gleiberman had the best observation of any I've read about what makes Hoffman's performance so good. "In his final scene with Perry, he's so conflicted that he does something I've never seen on screen: He cries, honestly, and lies at the same time." This is exactly right. Hoffman is a certain Oscar nominee for Best Actor.

The rest of the movie is very good, though not perfect. It's a little slow at parts and the ending is never in doubt. But it is always compelling and you don't need to have read In Cold Blood to see the movie. The book will probably all the more remarkable if you read if after seeing the film.

REVIEW: In Her Shoes


UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Forget the efforts of Cameron Diaz and everyone else trying to sell the movie, In Her Shoes is definitely a chick flick. It is also a superior movie, probably the best I've seen so far this year. The wife wanted to see it, but I went along very willingly because it was directed by one of Hollywood's best directors, Curtis Hanson. His three prior movies were L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile. I think it is pretty clear he is the most versatile filmmaker working in Hollywood today.

Diaz gives her best performance to date, but Collette and MacLaine own the movie. Whereas Diaz is a star giving a very good performace, Collette and MacLaine are true actors completely losing themselves in their roles. MacLaine is sure to receive her sixth Oscar nod and first since she won for Terms of Endearment in 1984. She does something wonderful that I've noticed many older stars like Paul Newman and Morgan Freeman also do: almost nothing. At least that's how it looks. Everything they do is less than what most actors would do. A little quieter, a little less movement but everything comes out. They make it look so easy you don't always give them credit. You always know exactly what they are thinking. The perfect distillation of human behavior.

It's too bad the movie is not making any money or it would be a sure bet for a passel of Oscar nominations. Oh well. For everyone involved, it will always be one of the best movies they've ever done.

So don't sweat it guys, if your lady friend wants to drag you to In Her Shoes you're in for a treat. Just make sure to complain a lot so next time you want to see Kill Bill vol. 56 or whatever, she'll owe you one.

REVIEW: Good Night, and Good Luck.


UNIVERSAL REMOTE

George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck. is a terrific film and a searing indictment about the dangers of media timidity. Every performance is perfect (especially David Strathairn and Frank Langella) and the black and white is beautiful. It's a kick to see how television shows were put together in the 50's and it is hilarious how much people smoked. (Murrow even smoked on the air!) The words may be about McCarthy but the music is all about the Boy King and his fear-mongering Administration.

A must see for everyone who reads this blog since obviously you're into this kind of stuff. This movie made sitting through Domino almost worth it.

REVIEW: Domino


UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Domino is one of the worst movies I've ever sat through. I know most people out there probably already knew this just by watching the trailer, but I like Tony Scott and the film was written by Richard Kelly (who wrote and directed the good but slightly overrated Donnie Darko). I've been a Tony Scott fan for a long time and think he's been doing some very interesting films for the last decade. I love Man on Fire and Spy Game and their rough, kinetic style. But now he's gone too far. Domino is almost impossible to look at. It is so chopped up nothing means anything. Keira Knightley is hot and seems like a nice girl but she's not much of a screen presence. Mickey Rourke's soulful brutality is interesting but that's it. Nothing but a poor man's imitation of Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers.

Do not go see it.
Do not rent it.
Do not watch it on cable late at night.

I would have left if I weren't sneaking into another movie right after.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Obituary of the Day

MANIFESTO

This is great.
Theodore Roosevelt Heller, 88, loving father of Charles (Joann) Heller; dear brother of the late Sonya (the late Jack) Steinberg. Ted was discharged from the U.S. Army during WWII due to service-related injuries, and then forced his way back into the Illinois National Guard insisting no one tells him when to serve his country. Graveside services Tuesday 11 a.m. at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery (Ziditshover section), 1700 S. Harlem Ave., Chicago. In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans.
Who am I to deny a man's last wish? More about Mr. Heller's message here.

Hear hear!

MANIFESTO

From one of our greatest Presidents (and who just happened to be a Republican).
The president is merely the most important among a large number of public servants...He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.

Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

--Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

Thursday, October 13, 2005

video iPod

Universal Remote

Does anybody else think that the biggest part of Apple's introduction of the video iPod is the video on demand download service? I'm not exactly sure how it'll be, but the simple fact that I can download last night's "Lost" episode in case my DVR failed to record it is revolutionary. If more networks make content available, I think video on demand will be the next big thing in television. I've heard of some false starts in the past, but Apple, again, just leapfrogged the entire industry.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Take That A-Rod

Sporting Goods

Wow, not only did A-Rod show up small in the ALDS but now his superman exploits are being overshadowed. We all remember the story about how A-Rod stopped a kid from running into traffic and getting hit by a truck. Well, Nomar just decided to one-up A-Rod. He dove in to Boston Harbor and pulled out two woman, including an unconscious woman. Now that's called saving a life.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fun with Dick & George

MANIFESTO

Are Cheney and the Boy King on the outs? It's the big rumor everyone is whispering about.

Personally, I think it all sounds a little too good to be true. I think Cheney has been absent because he is mad with power and works when he feels like it. Or as my friend GH says, "he's an android and has to go in for periodic recharging."

Update (10/11/2005 9:08 a.m.): Our good friend Monocle points us to a similar piece from Nora Ephron from a couple of weeks a go. Check it out.

First things First

Sporting Goods

There are a number of key personnel decisions that need to be made in the Red Sox off-season, and if I can keep my energy up and find the time I'll try to go through them one by one during the off-season. But before any major player decisions are made, the Sox need to make a big decision and make it soon: resign general manager Theo Epstein or let him go.

I think that Theo certainly should get either some, or a lot, of credit for putting together the pieces that won the Sox the title in 2004. I am almost tempted to say that is enough for me. But he has received a good deal of criticism over the last few months, and I think there are three particular areas where people have pointed:

1. The moves he made acquiring new talent were not the right moves:

Whether they worked out completely or not, was anyone really complaining about the signings of Clement, Renteria, Wells, Mantei, the low-risk/high-reward signing of Wade Miller, and the random roster fodder like Petagine, Jeremi Gonzalez, etc.? I remember doing some runs scored / runs allowed analysis of this team in pre-season and seeing 100 wins on paper.

Theo also traded Dave Roberts for Jay Payton. I know everyone loves Dave Roberts, but Jay Payton had a very good year...with Oakland. Had the Sox found playing time for Payton, this would have been a good move. Had the Sox had that playing time to give around, they would have kept Roberts on the roster in the first place. Maybe they just should have found this playing time, giving Ortiz some time at first and getting Millar's warning track power out of the lineup a bit more often. Theo's fault? Tito's fault? Probably a bit of both.

2. He didn't make the right decisions with his existing personnel:

The Red Sox chose not to re-sign Cabrera, Lowe, and Pedro. Cabrera is a great little player, but on paper the move to Renteria was a true upgrade. Nobody shed any tears when Derek Lowe left, post-season heroics aside. And all the people who say "it would have been so nice to have Pedro this year" are completely right. But the flipside of that is that he was not let go because the Sox didn't want to pay him this year and next, it was for 2007 and 2008 that the Sox were not willing to pony up the big cash.

The big move they did make was re-signing Jason Varitek and making him captain. This is a move that may be looked at retrospectively as a bad one if Varitek's late season decline is an omen for the future. Old catchers do not hold up well. But I think it was universally agreed that the Red Sox did the right thing here.

3. He didn't make a big splash during the season to bring in the missing pieces:

It is very hard to prove a negative. But what I do know is that I've never been more excited about the young guys that the Sox have groomed to hopefully make an impact in the next two years. Papelbon, Hansen, Hanley Ramirez, Pedroia. I think the one complaint I could make is that we still have Kelly Shoppach, who does not hold a ton of value for a team that has two solid catchers, one of whom is signed through 2008, and he would probably offer more value as trade bait.

Yes, this team needed some relief help. And they tried out arms like Mike Remlinger, and those experiments failed. But I would not have wanted to give up a Papelbon or Hansen or Declarmen to get a guy who would pitch a total of 15 innings for the Sox.

My biggest complaint about what the Sox "could have, should have" done is tried out more of the unproven players sooner and more often (the aforementioned young pitchers, Petagine), and cut bait on Embree, etc. before they did irreparable harm. But really, these are things that probably cost them the division title, not the LCS.

Verdict: I think it is obvious where I am going here, and that is that I think Epstein should be brought back, and if anything with a bit more power. He had trades pulled out from under him (Larry Bigbie) because I think he might have a few too many people to answer to. I also think that there should be more top-down management, as Tito has a tendency to play "his guys" despite their performance. But, this all comes with a big caveat.

I think their needs to be a confirmation hearing where Ted Kennedy asks Theo (imagine it in your best Mayor Quimby voice), "Will you or will you not try to trade Manny Ramirez, one of the greatest sluggahs of all time?" Yes, we need a "Manny litmus test." Bring back Theo. And Theo, please, pretty please, don't get rid of Manny.

It's no Secret at all

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I'm not going to pretend that I have any business reviewing concerts, so I won't try. But after seeing U2 last night, all I can say is that everyone should see these guys before it's too late, as they put on an amazing show. Too bad it's hard to get tickets, because there is a reason these guys can sell out four shows in a matter of minutes.

After about three encores, I think that you can say that not a single person walked out of MSG disappointed last night. They played all the old songs that they have to play ("Sunday Bloody Sunday" "Pride" "The Fly" etc.) and "All Because of You" was a worthy opener (though not quite as cool as "Elevation" was a few years ago.) I had never heard "Miss Sarajevo" before, and was really impressed with the song, and with Bono's Pavarotti impression.

I'm not sure how much longer Bono will be able to sing the way that he does, I'm not sure how much Adam likes touring, I'm not sure when U2 will decide to do something weird like Popmart again, so I'd recommend catching their next tour if you have the chance.

Here's a review of the Friday night show.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Wait 'til next year

Sporting Goods

Well in case anyone was worried, I did not hang myself from the shower curtain at 7:30pm on Friday, my silence is more because over the past 9 days I've been heavily involved in two bachelor parties (one in my honor, one that I helped pull together).

Also, I didn't really have much to say, which is ironic since my previous blog started when I needed an outlet during the 2004 ALCS.

The three game sweep really stung, not because I had expected a World Series run, but because there were a number of things about it that made me want to punch a wall:
- scoring 3 runs per game, after leading the majors in runs. frustrating.
- not being able to win at home, despite an amazing record at home. doubly frustrating.
- not being able to last long enough to even play over the weekend, when I would have been able to enjoy the game from a barstool.

Mostly, I'm upset because the season is over and I love watching baseball. I was going to say I love talking about baseball, but let's face it, there's even more to talk about in the offseason.

Now, on to rooting against Roger Clemens and the Yankees, pretty much par for the course since 1996.

The Quarterback is Toast

This started out as a comment on Chill's post but it got long enough that I decided to let it out of the cage and run free.

MANIFESTO

I agree with Chill's main point but not necessarily with the degree of his disdain. Yes, the Times should have been better about going after The Boy King before the election when it really would have meant something, but this was a media-wide failing, not just the Times. Not that this is an excuse since the Times is one of the most important/influential outlets there is. But I doubt that anyone who has read Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman for the last couple of years would say these two have been reluctant to point out mistakes/failings of BK and his cronies.

That being said, it is probably more important to focus on the fact that the Times and just about everyone else is finally going after BK for the first time. The questions being asked are getting more and more difficult to brush off with smirks and cowboy platitutes. And the public is starting to notice. The next elections cycle will be very telling. There are some that think the Dems can win back both the House and the Senate in one fell swoop. I don't know enough about the indiviual races to speak intelligently on this but I sure as hell hope it's true. What I do know is the GOP is having a tough time find decent Senate candidates for '06 and are way behind the Dems in fundraising. (Both the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have stories about this.)

Of all the points brought up by the Times, the 9/11 thing still gets me more than anything. Is there anything more pathetic than this? I mean really, anything? I've asked a few people a question and ask readers for their help. What successes has BK had in almost five years in office? Other than the bullhorn thing at ground zero, I ask anyone to name one policy that he and his supporters can point to as an unqualified success. Not Afghanistan since Osama is still out there. Not removing Saddam because Iraq is such a mess. Not revamping Social Security since that is dead in the water. Katrina is only an issue because he was so inept. (If he had done his job half right, no one would be blaming him for anything.) The tax-cut givaways to the rich that have created a record-setting deficit has only lead to a marginal 3% bump in the economy. Saying he is a strong leader is not enough because that is something create through advertising, not results. B mentioned the John Roberts appointment to the Supreme Court but I'm not sure I agree since the vote wasn't close and BK didn't have to expend any political capital to secure it. Gas prices are way up. DeLay has been indicted. Frist is under investigation. Karl Rove et al. are facing the spector of indictement in the Plame case. BK nominates crony (and pathetically unqualified) Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. I'm serious, what have any of these people done right that will help them win an election?

The Boy King is the worst President since Herbert Hoover and people are finally starting to notice. He will undoubtably leave this country worse off than he found it. It took someone like FDR to come along and clean up Hoover's mess. I just hope there is somebody up to the task of cleaning up after BK.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Welcome to the Party, Pal

Manifesto

Wow, not sure if anyone say Friday's New York Times containing a scathing editorial about President Bush and his invocation of 9/11 every time things get a little rough for him. Here's a taste:
As a candidate, Mr. Bush got a lot of mileage out of offering the same simple, positive thoughts over and over. But now the nation doesn't need more specious theories about why the invasion was a good idea and cheery assurances that the original plan is still working. If Mr. Bush still cannot acknowledge the flaws in his policy, how can he fix them?

Americans need clear guidelines for judging how long it makes sense to stay in Iraq. Are our troops helping create a nation, or simply delaying an inevitable civil war? Does a continued American presence help push the Middle East toward peace and democracy, or simply inflame hatred of the United States and serve as a rallying point for Al Qaeda? The fact that the president isn't willing even to raise the questions does not increase confidence in the ultimate outcome.

Given the state of the American adventure in Iraq and the way it has sapped the strength and flexibility of the United States armed forces, it was unnerving to hear Mr. Bush talk so menacingly about Syria and Iran. It was also maddening to listen to him describe the perils that Iraq poses while denying that his policies set them in motion.

Wow, thanks for the late update, New York Times' editors. Glad you finally woke up. Seriously, is there anything more troubling than the paper of record writing things such as: "As a candidate, Mr. Bush got a lot of mileage out of offering the same simple, positive thoughts over and over. But now the nation doesn't need more specious theories about why the invasion was a good idea and cheery assurances that the original plan is still working. If Mr. Bush still cannot acknowledge the flaws in his policy, how can he fix them?" Dear NYT, Mr. Bush "got a lot of milage out of" his simplicities because your reporters never question him on them. Moreover, during the entire campaign, your paper never challenged Mr. Bush on the flaws in his policy. Had you, maybe he would have offered more that simple platitudes. Actually, of course President Bush would not have. He has no answers, but he would have been exposed far sooner.

Now the NYT is finally up to the task of being critical of the President. Good for them. But it is troubling and disheartening that they couch the entire editorial as though there was some sort of sea change between last week's speech and Mr. Bush's campaign stump speech. It was exactly the same and the country was in exactly the same place a year ago as it is today. The Times' reliance on Mr. Bush "still refusing" means that the Times still doesn't see anything wrong with his banging the 9/11 drum repeatedly during the campaign and his refusal to offer any solutions during his campaign. If the NYT won't learn from the mistakes of the coverage of the last election, we are simply going to have to live through the same mistakes over and over again. Apparently the media can only be critical of the political establishment during non-election years. Thank god we don't have elections every year.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Snakes on a Plane UPDATE

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

It has become my mission in life (at least until August 18, 2006) to update our faithful readers on the movie event of the coming year: Snakes on a Plane.

As you may remember from my first post, SoaP(!) is a Samuel L. Jackson starrer about a cop that has to battle snakes on a plane during a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles. The snakes have been set loose by mobsters that want to kill a government witness Jackson is protecting. That's it. That's the movie. It is literally just snakes on a plane. Brilliant.

Well, I've learned from Entertainment Weekly that these are not just ordinary snakes. "(The mobster)'s also gotten leis on the plane that have been sprayed with this pheromone that drives the snakes nuts," explains director David R. Ellis. "So it's kind of like snakes on crack."

Snakes on crack!!!! I love it!!!!

The film also stars Juliana Margulies (who probably didn't envision herself starring in movies like this when she turned down all that money from ER) as a flight attendant, Flex Alexander as a rapper, and Kenan Thompson as his bodyguard. They had to put a rapper onboard. I can just picture the moment when he starts freaking out all gangsta-like about the damn snakes. I'm smiling already. Director Ellis promises about three quarters of the cast will bite it so expect LOTS of gruesome, hilarious deaths. (Including one where a snakes slithers up a fat woman's muumuu while she sleeps.) Definitely not for people with snake phobias.

SoaP has become something of a sensation on the internets. Here is a link to a homemade theme song that the producers should buy immediately to slap on the end credits (after the inevitable rap song about snakes on a plane.)

Snakes on a Plane is becoming bigger than all of us.

Just Wondering

MANIFESTO

Mr. President, if you did not have a close personal relationship with Harriet Miers, would you still have considered someone so unqualified for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bad news for Red Sox fans

Sporting Goods

Last year, Vinay Kumar took an interesting look at various baseball statistics and how they correlate to winning in the playoffs, based on assertions that Billy Beane's Moneyball theory doesn't work in the playoffs.

The stats are from before last year's playoffs (1995-2003), but there are 14 statistics for which having a sizable advantage over the opponent led to a correlation with winning the playoff matchup. In other words, does stealing 20 more bases than your opponent in the regular season have a correlation with winning? What about having guys named Derek? Etc.

Among those 14 key categories, three are "too close" between the Sox and Sox to tell us anything. Of the remaining 11, the White Sox have a significant edge in 10. If these trends hold true, it spells trouble for the Red Sox.

For example, in the two most positive trends for winning a playoff series, allowing at least 70 fewer hits and committing at least 12 fewer errors, the White Sox get a check in both categories. So I guess we just have to hope for ESPN's lame "Anything Can Happen!" truism to make ourselves feel better.

Separated at Birth?

WHATEVER

I hope she's not too much of a downer when she's confirmed.



Cronyism, Part 543

MANIFESTO

The Boy King has picked longtime friend and devout BK loyalist Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Conner on the Supreme Court. Here's her dossier. Since I know nothing about her, here a little background on what type of jurist she may be. Sounds like another Roberts-type. It also can be read that the President is starting to feel the pressure of all his recent (and monumental) foul ups. From TPM Cafe:
...Miers is a "stealth" candidate, who has not written or spoken much about the key issues that fill the Supreme Court's current docket. Presidents will turn to such candidates when they have to please many different constituencies in their party and when they face the prospect of a significant confirmation fight if they choose an ideological stalwart. President Bush is often said to avoid the sorts of decisions his father made, but in this respect George Bush is taking a page from his father's playbook. Hoping to avoid the confirmation battle over Robert Bork, President George H.W. Bush chose David Souter, about whom little was known when he was first nominated. (Unlike Souter, Miers is a stealth candidate about whom the President has lots of information unavailable to the public.) Choosing a stealth candidate is a sign that the President wants to avoid a fight, either because he is in a relatively weak political position, because he fears that his supporters disagree among themselves, or because he would rather expend his energies and influence elsewhere.
My first reaction is I'm glad BK hasn't nominated an obvious Thomas/Scalia type. There was some talk that because BK is doing so poorly in the polls, he would pick someone devisive in order to pick a fight with the Democrat minority and rally his base. It doesn't seem like that has happened. We'll obviously know a little more in the coming weeks before the inevitable hearing where she artfully refuses to say anything.