Saturday, September 27, 2008

Goodbye, Old Friend

Eulogies are hard to write. I know, that sounds like a whine.

Saying goodbye is hard. Saying goodbye to someone or something you've known all your life is harder, but I suppose we all must do it.

I grew up a Mets fan, which by definition means I grew up enjoying losing. From the lovable laughable team of Casey Stengel to the current crop of underachieving fuckheads (Scott Schoenweiss Schoe-n-tell is forever etched in my memory as the second worst reliever the Mets have ever had, second only to Doug Sisk Risk), a Mets fan learns to live with losing.

We also learn to live outside the spotlight, in the shadow of the bigger older brother across the Hellgate, the Yankees.

And so here we come to the nub of Shea Stadium. Mets fans love Shea, precisely because like us, it sits in the shadows of its older bigger famous sibling, Yankee Stadium.

Shea Stadium is the city. Yankee Stadium is a suburb. Shea Stadium sits across a small channel from the second busiest airport in the region, LaGuardia. Yankee Stadium rises up out of a park. At Shea, the smell of decaying fish and seaweed drifts and hangs over a game like a shroud. At Yankee Stadium, you might get a whiff of a nearby apartment building's cooking.

Shea sits amidst junkyards and hubcap dealers. Yankee Stadium sits amongst people, but somehow seems disconnected from them, like the dandy who brings his Bugatti to the local gas station because it broke down there on 161st Street.

Shea is of the people. Yankee Stadium is near the people.

Shea is undoubtedly one of the ugliest stadiums ever built. Conceived for two sports, designed for neither, and hurriedly built to open in time with the 1964 World's Fair, Shea exuded the early Sixties optimism for technology and minimalist architecture: get it up and get it built.

My dad was on the project that tore down the old Polo Grounds, the Mets first home. I remember walking that field as a young boy: it was cavernous and loud and echoed with the ghosts of crowds past, who watched the New York Giants play there, and Willie Mays and Ralph Branca.

I've had many opportunities to be on the field at Shea, both as a would-be player scouted for the organization, as a competitive athlete whose races often ended at home plate, and as a fan. It was always, always quiet in those dank mornings by the bay, as if God himself napped in the loge level.

And yet, so many of my memories these past 44 years have been loud ones. I even live-blogged a game in 2006 (sadly, the audio is a dead link) when the Mets captured the Eastern Division title, one of the few years where they achieved something, where they truly were contenders. I remember sitting for The Police concert in 1983, and watching the entire stadium bounce up and down as ninety thousand people stood and danced during "Don't Stand So Close To Me".

Like any good friend, I've seen Shea at her best and her worst. I've sat everywhere in the stadium, from the far reaches of the upper deck to the cushioned comfortable corporate seats just behind home plate at field level, and everywhere in between, including the press level. I've been to miserable Jets games there, when it was cold and rainy and windy...oh, the wind off Flushing bay! There is no wind that cuts you quite as deeply, since no other wind can combine with watching Pat Leahy miss three field goals or Sid Fernandez blow out his knee and the Mets get knocked out of the pennant race in May.

I've been to bright sunny games where the Mets lost by ten runs or were no-hit, but who cared? It was Shea, there was beer (or soda) and friends, and we just sat back and made fun of them.

Today, it is rainy and muggy and gray. Today, I go to wake my old friend ahead of tomorrow's funeral. A particular pall looms over the game today, as the Mets all but played themselves out of contention last night. The Mets will do that to you.

No matter. I go. I will wrap my arms around as much of the stadium as I can, and kiss her and say goodbye. And probably cry a little, just as I am now.

See, it's not a monument to urgency, or a house for a second class ballclub, or a buttugly-piece-of-barely-functioning arena.

It is my childhood. It is my life marching down the path in the woods that I have chosen. I mourn the path least taken, the one I should have, could have, been on.

It is my innocence. It is school day field trips to watch Bob Moose no-hit the Mets. It is the memory of watching John Milner, Rusty Staub and Wayne Garrett crank out home runs in a game in 1973 when the Mets made the most historic climb in history, from fourteen games out in last place to the top of the division in a month and a half. It is the memory of my unborn daughter kicking to root for Gary Carter trying once more for home run 300. It is sitting in the miserable cold October rain as Keith Hernandez pulls his hamstring trying to go first to third when the Mets desperately needed a run in a championship series against the Dodgers. It is Steve Trachsel bringing long-delayed relief to beleaguered Mets fans in 2006. It is heartache and it is unbridled joy and it is, simply, what love is.

It is a book and it is closing now. Goodbye, old friend!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Music Blogging

Squeeze - Annie Get Your Gun

Best bar band ever!

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Would you give an alcoholic just one more drink for the road? No. So explain this to me a little more clearly, please?

2) I am convinced that Sarah Palin has a little string in her back that, if you pulled it, would make her say "Math is hard!"

3) File this under "Not Exactly Surprising", however, it should concern ALL of us that banks seem to be consolidating. Look at what has happened to our information "banking" system: four companies control what you see on TV, hear on the radio and watch in the movie theatres. Do you really want that kind of control over your money, too?

4) File this under "Even Less Surprising". If only we had a President who could work both sides of the aisle, eh?

5) Despite this, expect the stock market to plummet, at least through the morning. Me, I think I'm cashing out today, and buying back in sometime this winter. I just wish I had been bright enough to buy gold.

6) Meet Android. Jason Perlow is an idiot if he thinks that quasi-open source hardware/software is the way to go in the mobile phone market, where people will actually store and utilize their most personal of information in ways he's not even pondering (but the Finns already have in place). Did you want to buy a soda from a machine, only to have some hacker decrypt your information and steal your 401(k)? I didn't think so!

7) Here's one change Barack Obama has already managed to pass.

8) Pity poor John McCain: even the meeting he was riding into like a white knight on a charger turned ugly on him. Not only that, but it was Obama who came away as the consensus builder! Tough week, man. "Country First" is a noble idea, so long as you have your ducks in a row, I guess.

9) Shea Stadium, as I noted last week, closes this weekend (barring a miracle playoff run), to be replaced by Citifield. To put the Treasury bailout into perspective, $700 billion could buy 13 new Citifields...for each and every county in New York State!

10) Or braces for everyone in Great Britain.....and France, or all 32 NFL teams - 27 times, or 2 cups of Starbucks every day for a year for every person in Brazil, or gasoline for a year for every adult in America. (175 billion gallons of gas), or you could literally buy the world a Coke. One 2-liter bottle per week for a year, or a 60-inch HDTV for every man, woman and child in the U.S., or 10 Monopoly games for each of the 6.7 billion human beings on planet earth, or 7 Mac laptops for every school-age child in U.S., or buy 1 Rolex watch for every woman in the U.S., or everyone in America 2200 McDonalds apple pies, or 18 (3-day) passes to Disney for the entire U.S. population, or 202 T-mobile G1 mobile phones for every resident of New York state, or 373 basketballs for every child in the U.S., or a brand new Hummer for each of the 11 million people on the island of Cuba, or 2 mountain bikes for everyone in China, or every winner of the MTV Video Music Awards 10,000 Lear Jets, or 438 pounds of rice for every single person in Africa, or 200 four-packs or Play-Doh for every child under 14 on the planet, or 400 trees for every one of the 7 million homes in the state of Florida, or a Caribbean Island for every single person in the state of South Dakota, or 1.5 million lightbulbs for every person in Alaska, or 604 rounds of golf on Bethpage's Black Course for everyone in New York. You choose!

11) If you have one, USE IT! I do, always.

12) This ought to be interesting. And I'm biting back hard on making jokes about take out orders...

13) Finally, President Who, now? has any sitting lame duck president ever been this lame that he can't keep his own party quiet?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Anonymous Liberal" Gets It Right

When I watched the highlights of yesterday's twin train wrecks in the McCain campaign yesterday, I said to myself, "well, the only reason that John McCain cut out of the David Letterman taping (video at link) was to do damage control for the earlier massacred Couric-Palin interview.
In the course of that interview, Sarah Palin all but signaled John McCain's intention to vote for the bailout package. And if it wasn't his intention, it is now. She equated not voting for it to initiating a new Great Depression, and you can almost hear the one-liner from Obama: "He voted FOR the Great Depression, before he was against it!"
Not that he couldn't use this line anyway.
Too, Palin's "I'll get back to you" comment regarding whether McCain had ever passed a single piece of legislation that increased regulations was pretty much butchered, and showed her to be totally lost at sea when it comes to answering questions she doesn't know the answer to.
Anonymous Liberal posts a brief transcript of this exchange (video at link):
COURIC: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.
PALIN: He's also known as the maverick, though. Taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about — the need to reform government.
COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?
PALIN: I'll try to find you some, and I'll bring them to you.
 Now, I'm no Republican, but I can think off the top of my head of at least two bills that McCain supported that increased regulations on education (No Child Left Behind) and homeland security (The Patriot Act). I can't say that he *pushed* for passage of either of those, but I do know that the McCain-Feingold bill set new regulations regarding money in political campaigns and is indeed his signature bill in the Senate!
It's OK to draw a blank in an interview and say "I'll get back to you," but your damned handlers ought to be on a phone in another room, getting those answers to you. And if they can't get to you during the taping, they ought to get you as you walk out and hand you a slip of paper, so you can turn around and go back to Couric and say "McCain-Feingold" for her to add later.
So The Anonymous Liberal gets it right that McCain's stunt was damage control, to appear on Couric in the next news cycle...yes, news cycles can now be measured in hours, not shore up his credentials. And kudos to Couric for asking a tough question.
But McCain suffers far more from his obfuscation to Letterman than he does from the stunt. If Senator McCain had been honest with Letterman, and said "Listen, I have to do damage control today, and if you'll keep it under your hat, I promise to drop by at the earliest opportunity to appear," Letterman would have been fine with that, and the endless replay of "Hey Senator, I have a question! Can I drive you to the airport?" wouldn't be getting more airplay than Sarah Palin's gaffes would.
Letterman said it best last night: "What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!" That's common sense and it's going to ring a lot louder and longer with independent voters than "I'll get back to you" ever would.
Indeed, McCain could have called Letterman during the taping (both The Late Show and The CBS Evening News tape around the same time) and perhaps made a surprise appearance. This would have salvaged the day, and truly mitigated the unmitigated disaster that was the Palin interview.
As it is, McCain managed to limit its exposure, first by "cancelling" campaigning, and then by cancelling on Letterman, both dishonest acts of cowardice. And now, CNN is reporting that McCain wants to delay the VP debate! I wonder if he's thinking of replacing her with someone who's a bit more...seasoned. After this story, it's possible.
Letterman said it best last night: "What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"
Presidents are supposed to multitask.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Only I wish this was a joke:
PETA Urges Ben & Jerry's To Use Human Milk

VERMONT -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow's milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman.

"PETA's request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow's milk in the food he serves," the statement says.

PETA officials say a move to human breast milk would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health.
Yes, it's true, there is a restauranteur who is experimenting with breast milk in *some* recipes in his fashionable restaurant in the Swiss ski resort Winterthur, one of several restaurants in that resort.

Thank God Ben and Jerry have a sense of humour...

Politics Stops At The Border, Right?

Then explain this:
US intelligence analysts are putting the final touches on a secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Afghanistan that reportedly describes the situation as "grim", but there are "no plans to declassify" any of it before the election, according to one US official familiar with the process.

Officials say a draft of the classified NIE, representing the key judgments of the US intelligence community's 17 agencies and departments, is being circulated in Washington and a final "coordination meeting" of the agencies involved, under the direction of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is scheduled in the next few weeks.

According to people who have been briefed, the NIE will paint a "grim" picture of the situation in Afghanistan, seven years after the US invaded in an effort to dismantle the al Qaeda network and its Taliban protectors.
Lemme think, now...what happens in the next few weeks...*koffkoff* electionisonlyfiveweeksaway*koffkoff*

Ah, yes, and a grim picture of Afghanistan would play against the public image of John McCain on national security.

Or maybe not. If I'm the McCain campaign, I want this report released to make people understand that the past eight years have been a boondoggled blunderfest, that has to be fixed.

This issue plays to Obama, too, to be sure: the agent of change trope is tailormade for the case I made for the "Maverick". In other words, the declassification of this report would neither hurt nor really help either candidate.

Which is why it will likely remain conveniently classified until November 5, when miraculously it will be leaked to the Washington Post.

After all, it's important that the American people hear confirmation of what Admiral Michael Mullen said last week to Congress we're running out of time. "I'm not convinced we're winning it in Afghanistan," were his exact words.

Couple that with the story about the deteriorating situation Pakistan in last week's Time Magazine, and you have a now-regional fuck up on the part of the Bush administration.

All this is happening while the clown car that is the White House has distracted you with handwringing and bickering over the $700 billion bailout as proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Fingerpointing seems to be the order of the day on the Hill. All eyes focused on McCain's support or lack thereof of Paulson's deeply flawed package, while Nancy Pelosi has demanded strong Republican backing in the House.

Give Pelosi credit. She's at least taking a stand. Harry Reid has all but dissappeared here. Can you say "Senate Majority Leader Clinton"? I knew that you could. So now we uncover the bargain Hillary and Barack came to.

Things are so bad in the House that even the Dark Lord of the Shits, Dick Cheney, can't keep his stormtroopers quiet, probably because they've deliberately kept their minions in the dark.

That's not to minimize the bailout or underlying economic troubles of the country. Bush and company have managed to do what Osama bin Laden, 19 terrorists and four airplanes could not: bring America to its knees.

What it does point out is, yet again, the Bush administration is deliberately paying lip service to an unfolding foreign crisis in order to let it fester to the point where the US is, once again, forced to go to war.

Only this time, it will be for the good of the economy, and not just the oil barons. You think jingoism was the order of the day in the early Aughts, wait till you seen what happens next!

It ain't gonna be pretty, folks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Best Part

Believe it or not, the tragic and frightening economic news of the past week has had one very positive side effect: It's shut the right wing echo chamber down.

To-wit, so mired in confusion and calumny, as well as self-doubt, has the right wing blogosphere become that they are resorting to the tactics employed against Dan Rather: trying to make shit up in a large enough pile that someone has to pay attention!

For example, comes this story from the Confederate Yankee:
We have fresh information regarding poorly-researched claims made in the media (including CNN, US News & World Report, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, and literally dozens of other "professional media") that Sarah Palin presided over a Wasilla, AK city government that charged rape victims for the forensic medical examinations designed to collected physical evidence of sexual assaults. With very little variation from one media source to the next, media accounts attempted to portray Palin as a callous monster out to re-abuse victims.

The best evidence available indicates these are entirely false claims.
Shocking! If true...but my old friend Bob conveniently ignores something he himself posted a bit further down the page:
On March 6, 2000, Del Smith, the Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, testified in support of HB 270 (the bill outlawing the billing of rape kits)
Errrrrrrrrrrrr, huh? Why is a law "outlawing" something that never happens being discussed? Ahhhhhhhh, here's why!
Testifying in front of the same committee, Lauree Hugonin, Director, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) noted that "billings have not come from police agencies but have come from hospitals." Trisha Gentle, Executive Director, Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault noted that police departments were willing to pay for the exams, but that it was an internal decision on the part of the hospital as to who pays the hospital bill.
So rape victims in Wasilla WERE being billed for rape kits by the hospitals, probably because the mayor said "We ain't paying for them." Palin's administration callously looked the other way.

Simple logic, Bobby. Use it or lose it. Oh...sorry...too late!

Another example of the right wing merry-go-round that is the blogosphere. You may have heard about these videos that were posted on YouTube, since taken down, by "eswinner".

"Dr." Rusty Shackleford (PhD in Obtuseness) got his skirts aflutter because it turns out that Ethan Winner has notverycloseatall ties to Joe Biden!!!!

I wonder where Rustbucket was during the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans campaign against John Kerry, which was basically run from inside the Oval Office? Think he was as outraged over that?

I'm guessing not. If you want a good laugh, do read Rusty's piece. A better essay on self-deluded paranoia you'll not read in an Abnormal Psychology text.

Finally, we have a piece by, no, not a blogger, but an honest to was it Cornfed Wanker put it? Oh, right... "professional media" type: George Will.

The abject horror in Will's column today over McCain's recently, um, queenly behavior is matched only by his emotional confusion over the election: should he vote for the scary black man or the candidate channeling Alice In Wonderland?
Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

*sniffsniff* Can you smell it? It smells like plastic melting...must be the right wing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Buy My Shit Pile

Well, I suppose it had to happen...a website has sprung up today offering to sell your shitpile to the Federal Government just like the banks and brokerages have been able to.

Me, I posted my issue #1 of She-Hulk...I only want ten million dollars for it!

Meme Tag!

TRANSLATION: "This blog invests and believes, the proximity"

[meaning, that blogging makes us 'close' -being close through proximity]
Well, I've been tagged. I suppose the point is to mention blogs that you feel close to, all warm and fuzzy about, without duplicating the person who linked to you...thanks, MissC!...

The tradition of this particular meme is to pass this off to eight other bloggers who are supposed to acknowledge it by copying the above graphic and text in a post of their own.

So who hasn't pissed me off lately...;-). Seriously, these will be links to blogs who's blog owners I genuinely like and welcome their comments here, as irregularly as they post:

BadTux, The Snarky Penguin. He may not always be right agree with me, but he usually makes me think.

Adgita Diaries. MandT always have cogent observations and pithy comments to make.

I was going to include Agitprop and my good buddy, Blogenfreude, but then Colonel Agi, Frederick, Culture Ghost and El Serracho would get pissed at me and I'm still working my good graces on them, so I'll tap the Guys From Area 51, their group effort. Some of the best Photoshopping on the Nets is done here.

Instaputz. Seriously.

Targa at Targa's Tirade. It's my fault he blogs. I guess I owe him a show of love.

Churl at Mad In The Middle, who's always good enough to link to me, and always checks out my posts. Thanks, guy!

Noni at I Dreamed I Saw Grace P. Last Night. We met over at Jesus' General blog, and have had a fair amount of crosscommenting ever since.

And finally, Skippy at Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo, also known as Jon Stewart's favorite blog, also known as the inventor of the term "Blogtopia", who somehow puts up with my inane comments without batting an eyelash. He must be part iguana.

Risky Business

George Will, not a man I either admire or whose bromides and harangues I pretend to really even listen to, once said one of the smartest points about American government policy.

Unintentionally, of course. He's not that bright. He originally had been speaking of the tax code when he said that businesses tend to privatize profits but socialize losses.

In other words, a business can deduct its losses from the IRS (and by extension, the government) but will work like the dickens to retain as many earnings as possible and avoid as much tax as possible, even to the point of tax evasion.

Unfortunately, as Paul Krugman points out today, this policy is not limited to the tax code:
The logic of the crisis seems to call for an intervention, not at step 4, but at step 2: the financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to — a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That’s what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It’s also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review “by any court of law or any administrative agency,” and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.
In other words, ladies and gentlemen, we've co-signed a home loan for a friend, without any access to his income, and now the bill is due, he can't afford to sell enough of his crap on eBay and the mortgage is due.

If this was the first or only bailout we had endured, that might be OK. After all, it would be an experiment, and experiments are allowed to go bad.

But this is neither the first time we've had to bailout out bad loans (Krugman correctly refers to the S&L crisis of the 80s), or even companies in deep fiscal trouble.

We've been down this road before, and will sadly travel it many times into the future unless we change the paradigm. More on that later, perhaps next week.

We are in essence buying $700 billion dollars of near-worthless paper...after all, if it had value, the banks could package and sell the hopes that some miracle, mirabile dictu!, and they gain value again.

Some will, many will not. While I find it hard to believe that these so-called "adults" of the Bush administration haven't calculated a generous breakeven point for the bailout where we stand to make back our $700 billion, I can pretty much guaran-damn-tee you that point is highly, perhaps even exuberantly, overoptimistic.

I haven't run the numbers, but I'd be willing to bet Paulson's gamble will show us losing a few hudnred million, maybe we recapture $400 billion. Maybe. Not likely.

Meanwhile, these banks, the WaMus and Wachovias and Wells Fargoes, all get to line up at this big pig trough for their slop of Fed money, in the hopes that somehow, banks that managed to keep their books in order privately, like Citibank, who ended up with a saudi bailout will begin lending them good money after bad.

With no penalty to the banks who got Federal money. No management changes. No seizure of assets to offset even a small portion of the bailout. No censure of the board of directors for failing their fiduciary oversight, and all golden parachutes intact.

Meanwhile, if you owe a mortgage and you have trouble paying it off, you lose your house, even if the Fed somehow steps in and finds you a shelter, but then again, the Republicans have cut those unnecessary social services because, you know, it inflates the deficit...

George Will is correct: Our priorities are all screwed up.