Sunday, October 23, 2005

Where's your hero martyr now?

When Judy Miller of the New York Times was sent to prison for refusing to testify in Patrick Fitzgerald's probe into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name, a lot of people lauded her as a hero, including professional journalists who should have known better.

When the door was locked behind Miss Judy and people starting calling her a First Amendment hero for refusing to reveal her source, I said "bullshit." I said she wasn't protecting some whistleblower who feared reprisal for coming forward with imformation, she was protecting a partisan operative who was using anonymity to punish a political opponent without having his or her (as it turned out, his) name associated with the attack. There's a difference.

Often that comment was met with sideways glances and dismissal. After all, the herd was choosing its side, and I was sounding a dissonant note.

Miller supporters argued that confidential sources are valuable because sometimes it's the only way some people will stick their necks out to share information that's valuable to the public good.

Well, no shit. But how is the name of Joe Wilson's wife valuable to the public good?

These days, those journalists don't talk about Judy Miller much. Even the Times has turned on its First Amendment hero. Take Maureen Dowd's take:

Judy admitted in the story that she "got it totally wrong" about WMD "If your sources are wrong," she said, "you are wrong." But investigative reporting is not stenography.

It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like "Valerie Flame." Nor does it seem credible that she doesn't know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she wrote, she "did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby."

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.
In case you, like so many professional journalists, are late arriving at this conclusion, a promise of confidentiality should not have been given in this case. And when did the source get to decide what's on and off the record? When did sources start deciding what you print and what you don't? Journalists decide what's on and off the record, and based on that, sources decide what they're going to reveal. Just because someone tells you, "this is off the record" doesn't bind you to anything. As soon as you hear a source tell you what you can and can't use, tell the source that nothing he or she tells you is off the record. You'd be suprised how often sources will keep talking anyway. They're not talking to a reporter because they have nothing to say.

Now who's protecting journalists' rights? Me or Judy Miller?

I've met many bright people who make their living in journalism, and I'd like to say that the ones who have impressed me with their skills and intelligence outnumber the ones who make me wonder how they ever got where they are. But the two groups are running about neck and neck these days (of course, I used to work for the Journal Register Company, so maybe that's not entirely fair).

It must mean something that some of the brightest journalists I know have left the profession. True, for some it was a money issue. But others were idealists who became disillusioned at the way corners are cut in the name of saving money, protecting an advertiser from bad pub or reflecting the publisher's political leanings. No kid chooses journalism school because he or she wants to be a tool for a corporation with an agenda and a media outlet.

Before you start telling me that there are plenty of journalists out there doing good old-school digging and getting important information in front of readers, I agree, there are. But tell me which way the trend is heading.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Good news for those living in Redsoxville.

A 173-year-old timber dam threatening to break and flood a Massachusetts city stabilized on Wednesday, though much of the city remained closed and about 2,000 people were still under evacuation order.

The Whittenton Pond Dam in Taunton, a city of 50,000 people some 30 miles south of Boston, remained weak and authorities were concerned about forecasts for heavy rain this weekend.

"As of this morning, the situation has been described as stabilized. The water level continues to be reducing a little bit," said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The U.S. National Weather Service warned on Tuesday that at breach of the dam could unleash a wall of water up to 6 feet high.

A flash flood warning remained in effect through Wednesday night, the weather service said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning. National Guard troops placed sandbags along the river bank.
Here's hoping the dam holds and the situation improves.

Just warming up

Is the jury back on global warming yet? I'm not sure it can afford to stay out much longer.

Hurricane Wilma brought heavy rains to Central America and Mexico on Wednesday as it swirled into the most intense Atlantic storm ever recorded, a Category 5 monster packing 175 mph winds that forecasters warned was "extremely dangerous."
On the plus side, the oil and coal industries are raking in mad profits. Fortunately, there is good news for the rest of humanity.

Wilma was not expected to keep its record strength for long, as disruptive atmospheric winds in the Gulf of Mexico should weaken it before landfall, Hurricane Center meteorologist Hugh Cobb. Gulf water is about 1 to 2 degrees cooler than that in the Caribbean, which should inhibit its strength more, he added.
I'm no scientist, but if cooler water should inhibit a hurricane's strength, what effect do you suppose warmer water has? Does this sway the jurors at all? Probably not, because there's no way this administration is going to do anything to address the problem of global warming -- shit, it can barely be bothered to clean up after Katrina. We have to wait until 2009, at the soonest, before we can even begin to address this problem.

How close is that fucking ranch to the Gulf of Mexico?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fenway facelift

Renovations are under way at Fenway. The club is doing away with the plexiglass that encases the .406 Club, because, CEO Larry Lucchino said, "the people who bought these seats preferred the open air, the electricity, the energy of Fenway Park."

What a refreshing change of pace: Wealthy people who don't want to be isolated from the great unwashed.

The .406 Club will be replaced by something called EMC, which is a horrible name for some open-air seats where the .406 Club is, and more open-air seats above that.

In all, the team plans to add 1,100 seats to Fenway.

I guess I can expect the call informing me that I can purchase season tickets any day now.

In other Sox news, the team announced Monday that Trot Nixon underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last Friday.

Non-Sox baseball entry

Know what was the best part of Albert Pujols' 9th inning, 2-out, 3-run moonshot that gave the Cardinals a 5-4 win over the Astros Monday night? George I and Bar shutting up and sitting down. Those swine were standing at their seats behind the plate when Brad Lidge hung his slider, and sitting quietly a moment later.

SportsCenter has been showing the video on pretty much an endless loop, so look to the far right (naturally) in the stands just behind the plate and enjoy watching them being silenced.

I wasn't rooting one way or the other in this series until ESPN showed those two in the stands. But now I realize that the Astros have a history of coming close to winning a postseason series and then losing, and they weren't expected to beat the Cardinals anyway, plus now they get to go on another fun plane ride, so this (chuckle) -- this is working very well for them.


A vague, nonspecific threat prompted officials to close the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel.

I have a sneaking, sickening suspicion that this has something to do with the fact that President Bush's poll numbers are in the toilet and even his base is starting to revolt because Harriet Miers' conservative credentials aren't unquestionable enough.

In short, I think it's bullshit.

What seems odd is that the FBI received the threat "a couple of days ago," which would have been Sunday, and the tunnel, which is on a I-95, the major roadway along the Boston-Washington corridor, wasn't closed until 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Closing the tunnel on Sunday, or immediately after receiving the threat, when fewer people are using the tunnel, would've meant that CNN's dramatic aerial views of the gridlock would have to compete with NFL football. Better to wait so that there's more traffic, a longer backup of vehicles and less compelling programming to draw attention from the images. Who's M.O. does that sound like? (Hint: He might be indicted this week.)

And if there were a real threat, why is traffic still being allowed through the tunnel (one lane is getting by in each direction)? If there were a chance of some disaster, why wouldn't the road be completely closed?

Click here to read Keith Olbermann's take on why the key to a good terror threat is the timing.

If, God forbid, this turns out to be something, I'll eat a piping hot plate of crow, but something else tells me this is bullshit. And that something is the fact that the government is responding. The Bush administration ignores real threats. A PDB titled "Bin Laden determined to strike in US" (8/6/01, but you already knew that) prompts no action, but an anonymous phone call sends agents scrambling (two days later)? Please. This is probably about as real as the elevated terror alert levels that coincided with the Democratic National Convention in 2004. What color is the threat level today? Brown.

I wish I didn't have to think this way, but we all know the Bush administration's record when it comes to telling the truth.

You know, if the administration had funded efforts to secure the tunnel, maybe this wouldn't be happening. I mean, it's been more than four years since 9/11, and what part of our transportation infrastructure, save airlines, has received any security attention at all?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Fun with words

All this talk about bankruptcy got me thinking about the growing gap between the rich and poor in this country, or even the rich and the rest of us. And I realized how much that gap is reflected in our language. Different words are often used to describe the same thing, depending on how much money is involved, with the rich often described in more forgiving, less concrete terms. I came up with a few examples:

If you're not rich, you're "crazy."
If you're rich, you're "eccentric."

If you're not rich, you're "generous."
If you're rich, you're "philanthropic."

If you're not rich, you're a "donor," or a "contributor."
If you're rich, you're a "patron," or a "benefactor."

If you're not rich, you're "stubborn."
If you're rich, you're "independent."

If you're not rich, you're a "daydreamer."
If you're rich, you're a "visionary."

If you're not rich, you're a "recipient."
If you're rich, you're an "heir."

If you're not rich, you're a "bum."
If you're rich, you're a "gentleman of leisure."

If you're not rich, you're a "gambler."
If you're rich, you "enjoy games of chance."

If you're not rich, you're a "junkie."
If you're rich, you're "struggling with addiction."

If you're not rich, you're a "radical."
If you're rich, you're a "maverick."

If you're not rich, you're a "loan shark."
If you're rich, you're a "lender."

Can you think of more?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bankrupt yet?

If you're buried in debt, stop reading and run to the nearest courthouse.

DENVER - Hundreds of consumers across the nation crowded into courthouses Friday to file bankruptcy petitions to beat the start of a new federal law that sets stricter standards for seeking protection from creditors.

Across the nation, about 100,000 petitions were filed in the first three days this week, according to Burlingame, Calif.-based Lundquist Consulting, which compiles bankruptcy statistics. The firm said 102,863 were filed last week, a record expected to fall.

The new law, the most sweeping reform of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in decades, takes effect Monday, setting new limits on personal bankruptcy filing and requiring people to get professional credit counseling before they may file petitions.

It will prohibit most filers with above-average income from filing Chapter 7 petitions that allow debts to wiped out.
And by "above-average income," they mean?
Instead, people deemed by a "means test" to have at least $100 a month left over after paying certain debts and expenses will have to submit a five-year repayment plan under the more restrictive Chapter 13.

At the U.S. Bankruptcy Court here, clerk Brad Bolton said the number of filings set a record every day this week, with nearly 2,000 filed on Thursday alone.

"We've never seen anything like this," he said, standing in a corridor near the courthouse door. "Every day has just gotten worse than the day before."
Finally, Congress has restored sanity to our nation and protected large credit card companies and other creditors from slightly smaller profit margins. So what if families are burdened with crushing debt for years? They knew when they bought that home or car that they might get sick or laid off suddenly. They knew when they bought their children clothes with a credit card that their jobs could be outsourced to Bangladesh at any moment. They understood the risks.

The credit-counseling requirement is a particularly nice touch because, as Susie points out, it forces people with their heads on the chopping block to be advised by the people holding the blade.

How come this "culture of responsibility" that wingnuts love to talk about doesn't apply to companies that make risky loans or issue risky credit? Oh, I forgot. Becuase the credit-card industry actually wrote this law.

Click here to read an article by about this by Jonathan Alter of Newsweek. I warn you, the site is cluttered with poorly placed ads and links, which make the article text twist and turn down the page until it looks like a Texas Congressional district. And the beginning of the third paragraph is obscured, crushed between an advertisement and a box of links. But if you copy that part of the text and paste it elsewhere, say in Word, you'll see that it says the following:
The law was literally written by the credit-card industry, the same folks whose siren-song targeting of high-risk borrowers caused much of the bankruptcy problem in the first place.
I tried to find another site with the text intact, but the only one I could find required visitors to register for a "free 30-day trial," and I didn't want to do that to you.

For those of you who can't bear to leave this site even for a moment, here's an excerpt from Alter's article that you shouldn't miss:

We're not talking here about that irresponsible guy you see in the mall who is buying a flat-screen TV he cannot afford. Making it harder for him to weasel out of his financial obligations is fine. But according to a Harvard study of bankruptcy, the most thorough ever undertaken, this deadbeat is the exception. Nearly 95 percent of those who declare personal bankruptcy are swamped by job loss, family breakup, medical problems or some combination. For about half, it's the health-care costs that do them in. (Alcohol- and drug-rehab expenses account for only 2 percent of defaulted expenses.) About 10 percent have the pleasure of getting cancer and going bankrupt at the same time.
There's an election coming up, so be sure to thank your Congressional representatives next November, in the only way they understand.

Decision time

Karl Rove, you're in the Budweiser Hot Seat:

WASHINGTON - Karl Rove testified for the fourth time Friday before the grand jury in the CIA leak probe, following public disclosure of his conversations with two reporters about the identity of a covert officer at the spy agency.

The White House aide spent about four and a half hours inside the federal courthouse, and left without commenting to reporters. It was likely Rove's final chance to convince grand jurors he did nothing criminal in the leak case.

Prosecutors have warned Rove, architect of President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, that there is no guarantee he will not be indicted. The grand jury's term is due to expire Oct. 28.

After Rove's testimony, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked whether Rove still had the president's confidence. He would say only, "Karl continues to do his duties."
With the grand jury's term due to expire in two weeks, we can expect its decision soon on whether to indict Rove. Judging by Scotty's dodge of the confidence question, the White House also is expecting a decision, and maybe expecting something else.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Postseason awards

Unfortunately, it's time to hand out the Sox team awards for 2005 (I was hoping to do this much later in the month). My nominees:

Best starting pitcher: Tim Wakefield. On a staff full of middling performances, Wake posted 16 wins and recorded 151 strikeouts.

Best bullpen pitcher: Mike Timlin. Not a lot of competition here, except from Mike Myers.

Best hitting pitcher: Wade Miller. Believe it or not, Miller played long enough this season to get 3 at-bats, and 2 hits, for a .667 average. Well, he did come over from the NL. Honorable mention: Tim Wakefield, who went 2-for-8 (.250) with an RBI. Of course, he too spent some time in the senior circuit.

Best bench player: John Olerud. Olerud provided solid late-inning defense and a left-handed bat with some pop off the bench, hitting .289 with 7 homers.

Best midseason acquisition: Tony Graffanino. Graffanino came over from Kansas City and hit .319 the rest of the way, filling a hole in the order created by the hole in Mark Bellhorn's bat.

Best baserunner: Johnny Damon. Again, not a lot of competition here. Damon, the team's only legitimate base-stealing threat, swiped 18 bags, was caught stealing only once and scored 117 runs, a total surpassed only by David Ortiz (119).

Rookie of the Year: Johnathan Papelbon. In 17 appearances, he went 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 34 strikeouts.

Gold Glove: Jason Varitek. Varitek is known around the league for his ability to handle a pitching staff and his leadership between the lines is marked by the "C" on his chest. He made 8 errors and was charged with 7 passed balls, but because he handles the ball so much, his fielding percentage was still .990. Plus, he threw out nearly a third of runners attempting to steal. Honorable mention: Trot Nixon, who made several nice plays and only 1 error this season.

MVP: Guess. Honorable mention: Manny Ramirez.

Farm report

The Sox site has a look at some of the talent in their minor-league system. Take a look.

Survey says ...

The Kool Aid is starting to wear off for most Americans:

President George W. Bush's job approval rating has fallen to a new low of 39 percent in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.

Bush's approval rating dipped in the poll below a mid-September ranking of 40 percent. The survey also found only 28 percent of respondents believed the country was headed in the right direction, NBC reported.

The poll also found that strong majorities did not believe that recent charges against former House Republican leader Tom DeLay of Texas or a federal investigation of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, were politically motivated, NBC said.

With the 2006 congressional elections a year away, 48 percent of respondents said they preferred a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared with 39 percent who said they preferred Republican leadership, NBC said.

The 9-point difference was the largest margin between the parties in the 11 years the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had been tracking the question, NBC said.
It's nice to see that most people now realize the emporer has no clothes, but it's too late: Bush doesn't care. He's not facing another election, so as usual, he will face no personal consequences for the state in which he leaves this great nation. But why should this be any different? He hasn't faced consequences for walking away from his National Guard service, for drunk driving, for his sale of Harken stock just before the stock tanked, or for lying the country into a war.

Instead of being held accountable for his abysmal record, he will retire to (or return to, if you prefer) a life of leisure and tremendous wealth, all the while collecting a pension and enjoying the protection of the Secret Service. It's the rest of us who have to live with the unprecedented (or unpresidented, if you prefer) mess he will leave behind.

The one small consolation in all this is that it will be fun to watch the administration's water carriers -- Fox News, Rush, Ann Coulter et al -- run for cover as people wake up and 2008 gets closer. After all, unlike George Bush, they'll have to make a living after the next election, and the administration they defended for nearly a decade has made sure that's going to be tough for almost everybody.

Lest you think the NBC poll is an abberation, a CBS poll puts Bush's approval rating even lower, at 37 percent.

President Bush's overall job approval rating has reached the lowest ever measured in this poll, and evaluations of his handling of Iraq, the economy and even his signature issue, terrorism, are also at all-time lows.

For comparison, Nixon's approval rating was 24 percent when he resigned over crimes that pale in comparison to lying the nation into war (OK, most crimes pale in comparison to starting a war, so maybe that's not fair).

Do you think he can do it? Can Bush reach the same subterrainian approval rating as the most disgraced president in American history?

Unfortunately, he probably won't sink that far. For his approval rating to keep falling, undecideds would have to become disapprovers, and/or supporters would have to turn against him. And how many undecideds can still be out there when it comes to Bush? He has polarized the nation, and most people have strong opinions about him either way.

As for his supporters turning against him, the only significant support he has left is among his base, and about the only way he would turn them against him would be to have gay sex on the White House lawn (you know how the base feels about gay sex, or at least how they claim to feel about it), although appointing his lawyer to the Supreme Court was a nice try. So he's probably close to bottoming out at this point.

But there's still a way for Bush's approval rating to creep even lower: If Karl is indicted, Bush is going suffer no matter what he does. If Bush defends Rove, he's publicly supporting a man accused of outing a covert CIA operative, after he said that anyone "involved" would be out (which, of course, evolved into anyone who "committed a crime"). That might not piss off the base, but a few straggling undecideds might be bumped off the fence. And if Bush fires Rove, who will orchestrate his presidency? Without Rove leading him by the wrist, who knows what he might do?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Told ya

What was it I said Karl would arrange? Oh yeah:

Maybe we'll even see W., our rugged, open-collared, sleeves-rolled-up
leader, hammer a nail. Ad nauseum. The same nail, over and over. On ABC, CBS,
CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. Especially Fox.
Hmm, it looks like Bush is helping workers by preparing to hit one of them on the head with that hammer. Fortunately, he's holding it in a way that won't generate much force.

Lest you think this wasn't just a photo op:

Bush's motorcade wended its way through the pitch dark down Covington's largely unscathed streets to the brightly lit Habitat site — a small patch of land amid a still-sleeping, modest neighborhood turned into a makeshift TV set.

Dressed for the occasion in hard hat, work gloves and a large wraparound tool belt, the president joined other volunteers hammering nails into a sheet of plywood. The first lady, a cloth nail pouch around her waist, accompanied him. Bush spent most of his time chatting, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
I'm not right a lot, but when I am ...


I'm noticing that the numbers on that Site Meter thing are creeping upward (I'm not entirely sure what they all mean yet, but I'll figure it out) and that some of you are starting to leave comments. I'm glad to see you're stopping by, and I'm very happy and interested to read what you have to say. Your comments enrich the site for everyone, but especially for me. Thank you for your visits and your comments.

Please help

Just because it's not in the headlines anymore doesn't mean these people no longer need help.

Desperate Pakistanis huddled against the cold and some looted food stores Monday because aid still had not reached remote areas of Kashmir, where a devastating earthquake flattened villages, cut off power and water, and killed tens of thousands.

Officials predict the death toll, now estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000, will climb because of exposure and disease. With winter just six weeks away, the United Nations has said 2.5 million people near the Pakistan-India border need shelter.
Help will have to come from individuals because, thanks to someone's stupid-ass tax cuts, our government is too broke to take care of even our own people.

Americares is a charitable organization providing relief to the victims of the earthquake. Donating will take only a minute, will make you feel good and will help a lot of people who really need it. If you can only give a little, give a little. If you're a recipient of one of the aforementioned tax cuts, give a lot.

Please do what you can. Thanks.

Heaven sent

The Angels knocked the Stinkins out of the playoffs. Yay!

Monday, October 10, 2005

What they said

I could comment, but why? The Washington Post edit is pretty clear:

Let's be clear: Mr. Bush is proposing to use the first veto of his presidency on a defense bill needed to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan so that he can preserve the prerogative to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In effect, he threatens to declare to the world his administration's moral bankruptcy.
As if such a declaration would come as news to anyone.

Questions, questions

Now that the Sox are spectators for the rest of the season, they turn their attention to next year and see questions almost everywhere they look. Let's touch 'em all:

Catcher: Jason Varitek is probably the best all-around catcher in the league, and the Sox have him under contract for three more years.

First base: Kevin Millar, a positive presence in the locker room, is coming off a down year in which he hit .272 with only 9 homers and 50 RBIs. He's not a soild defensive player or a base stealer and he's eligible for free agency, so his return is in doubt.

John Olerud played solid baseball in his role this season, hitting 7 homers and driving in 37 in limited duty. He's a good lefthanded bat off the bench and a good late-inning defensive option. He, too, is a free agent, but at the right price could possibly hang around, even though he turned 37 this season.

Second base: It might not help that what stands out in people's minds when they think "Tony Graffanino" is a key error that led to a Game 2 loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, but Graffanino was an upgrade over Mark Bellhorn at second, hitting .319 for the Sox after coming over from Kansas City. Working against Graffanino's return is his age (33) and the fact that he's eligible for free agency. Plus the Sox have second-round draft pick Dustin Pedroia waiting in the wings and could go with youth at the position next season.

Shortstop: I never did understand the four-year deal the Sox gave to Edgar Renteria before this season, especially when they could have re-signed Orlando Cabrera and with Hanley Ramirez so close to being ready for the bigs. Now Renteria is nursing an injured groin and back. Renteria scored 100 runs this season, but he was a very streaky hitter this season and made a pile of errors. He could be trade bait, but the Sox might have to eat some of what's left of that $40 million contract he signed in December.

Third base: Bill Mueller is a solid, popular player. But how long can he hold off Kevin Youkilis? If the Sox want to go young, and what team doesn't want to get younger, Youkilis, who will be 27 when the first pitch is thrown next season, could replace Mueller, who will be 35 then, at the hot corner.

Designated hitter: This one's easy. David Ortiz is the most valuable player in the league. Period.

Left field: Normally when you have a guy who hits .292 with 45 homers and 144 RBIs and leads the major leagues in outfield assists, you'd say that position is solid. But this is Manny Ramirez, he of the annual trade request. Anything could happen when it's Manny you're talking about, but don't expect the Sox to split up Ortiz and Manny in the 3 and 4 spots in their order.

Center field: Johnny Damon presents the Sox with something of a dilemma: The free-agency eligible outfielder hit .316 with 75 RBIs from the leadoff position and scored 117 runs. He can track them down in the outfield, but his arm lets a lot of runners take a lot of extra bases. Plus he has an ailing right shoulder, which robs him of power at the plate, and he turns 32 next month -- not ancient, but nearing the point when many players' best seasons are behind them. I have to think the Sox will want their leadoff man back, but the status of that shoulder will play a role in contract negotiations.

Right field: Fans and management like Nixon's gritty, no holding back approach. The team signed Nixon to a three-year deal before the 2004 season, so expect him to return.

Starting pitcher: Curt Schilling (8-8, 5.69, 9 saves) will benefit from more time to rehab his right ankle. He showed flashes of his former self this season, but it was apparent that the ankle wasn't 100 percent this season. He's under contract for 2006 with a mutual option for 2007. Next season will determine if Schill will finish his career in Beantown and whether he will do so in 2006 or 2007.

Matt Clement had an uneven season, at 13-6, 4.57. The Sox's other free agent pitching acquisiton, David Wells, performed similarly, going 15-7 with a 4.45 ERA. Each had a good walk/strikeout ratio: Clement fanned 146 and walked 68 in 191 innings; Wells struck out 107 and walked only 21 in 184 innings. Expect Clement to return. Wells' return depends on how he feels about Boston. He complained earlier this year about the amount of attention players receive from fans there, and might ask to be traded.

Tim Wakefield (16-12, 4.15) endured a rough patch of five consecutive losses from mid-May to mid-June, but balanced that with a stretch of four consecutive victories from late July to mid-August. The 39-year-old will start his 11th season with the Sox next April.

Bronson Arroyo, 14-10, was another starter with an ERA over 4.00 (4.51). The Sox need a starter who won't force the offense to score 5 or more runs to win a game. Johnathan Papelbon, who had a 2.45 ERA, albeit in only 34 innings, could join the rotation, possibly moving Arroyo to the bullpen, especially if the oft-injured Wade Miller (4-4, 4.95 in 16 starts) returns or if a free-agent starter is added.

Bullpen: Mike Timlin did a competent job as closer, with 13 saves after taking over the role from Keith Foulke. But Timlin is a free agent, as are fellow bullpen pitchers Mike Myers and Matt Mantei. Of the three, Mantei is the least likely to return. And if Foulke doesn't return to form, he probably won't return to the Sox, either.

As the free-agent picture becomes clearer around the league, I'll look at whom the Sox should target during the hoilday shopping season.

Go Angels!

Liars and fools

It was on Fox News, so it has to be true:

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers has long opposed abortion but would set aside personal views when deciding legal issues, her close friend who has been a leading advocate for her nomination said on Sunday.

"She is pro-life, and she has been for 25 years," Nathan Hecht, a Texas Supreme Court justice and Miers' longtime friend, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Asked how Miers, with that view, could conceivably vote to uphold the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman's right to abortion, Hecht said, "legal issues and personal issues are just two different things. Judges do it all the time."
Guess what else judges do all the time? Make rulings in line with their personal views. From the April 19 NYT, by way of

Conservative politicians insist that courts should defer to the democratically elected branches, but conservative judges do not seem to be listening. The Supreme Court's conservative majority regularly overturns laws passed by Congress, like the Violence Against Women Act and the Gun-Free School Zones Act.

Justice Scalia likes to boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads, even if it leads to results he disagrees with. But it is uncanny how often it leads him just where he already wanted to go. In his view, the 14th Amendment prohibits Michigan from using affirmative action in college admissions, but lets Texas make gay sex a crime. (The Supreme Court has held just the opposite.) He is dismissive when inmates invoke the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to challenge prison conditions. But he is supportive when wealthy people try to expand the "takings clause" to block the government from regulating their property.

The classic example of conservative inconsistency remains Bush v. Gore. Not only did the court's conservative bloc trample on the Florida state courts and stop the vote counting - it declared its ruling would not be a precedent for future cases. How does Justice Scalia explain that decision? In a recent New Yorker profile, he is quoted as saying, with startling candor, that "the only issue was whether we should put an end to it, after three weeks of looking like a fool in the eyes of the world." That, of course, isn't a constitutional argument - it is an unapologetic defense of judicial activism.
But Miers' friend said she can be impartial, so it must be true. And she said it on Fox, which really buttresses its believability.

Some conservatives are crying foul over the nomination, saying they have no way to know if she's reliable enough to push their agenda. This has prompted some Democrats to actually defend Miers from the conservative attacks.


Politics, or perhaps more accurately the Democratic party, has become so knee-jerk and unthinking that these fools automatically take the opposite stance of their opponents. Democrats are trying to score points by pointing out how "ugly" the attacks of conservatives against Miers are, but all they're doing is feeding the notion that they don't stand for anything and merely react to what those on the other side of the aisle do. Do these hacks realize that they are defending a Bush nominee, a nominee who has no judicial experience whatsoever, a nominee who was picked because she's a crony?

They're actually defending the president's nominating his lawyer to the Supreme Court.

What's the next move in this brilliant strategy? "We'll show you conservatives. We'll vote to confirm this nominee, this unqualified Bush crony, to sit on the United States Supreme Court"?

If these idiots value their jobs, they better snap out of this "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" illusion and grow some bone in their backs. The fact that Miers was nominated by Bush, the fact that she's a Bush loyalist and his attorney should tell them everything they need to know.

Politics of failure

I've been chatting by e-mail with a journalist friend of mine about, among other things, layoffs that are happening at newspapers around the country. I mentioned the layoffs in Philly (at the Daily News and Inquirer), New York (the Times) and Boston (the Globe). She added Hartford, Conn. (the Courant -- layoffs that come less than a year after the last round of layoffs there) and the Baltimore Sun.

Add to that list the San Jose Mercury News, which is showing 56 guild workers the door -- and then pushing them through it.

Click here to read the grisly memos written to people who would lose their jobs by people who wouldn't.

Once again, the rank-and-file pay for the failures of executives and management. This isn't exclusive to newspapers, of course -- all of corporate America has embraced the "punish-someone-else" philosophy -- but it's something that you don't see in Japan. And it makes about as much sense as replacing your tires because you have a dead battery.

Makes you wonder how executives would fare as mechanics. But a more pertinent question might be how you would fare as a mechanic, because if you're working at a newspaper, sooner or later it's going to be you shoved out the door. Unless you're an executive, in which case you'll just have to feign remorse in a layoff memo about three or four times a year and maybe occasionally hide out in your office until the latest punishees have left the building for the last time. (You wouldn't want to endure a socially awkard moment or risk a confrontation with people who are wondering how they're going to feed their children or afford health insurance because of your failure, would you?)

But I'm not insensitive to the pressure on executives. In fact, I want to help them. So if you're an executive looking for a boilerplate for the requisite Remorse Clause to use in a layoff memo, I suggest this for your consideration:

In a memo to newsroom employees, editor Brian Toolan shouldered the blame for the layoffs, saying that Connecticut's largest newspaper had to reduce its payroll to meet financial goals.

"If you are disappointed in anyone, then be disappointed in me," Toolan wrote. "I thought I could keep layoffs from hitting the newsroom. I was wrong."
Of course, shouldering blame is a lot easier than shouldering consequences.

More conversation

My friend and I also discussed why the layoffs are happening at so many newspapers, and the number-one, don't-waste-my-time-with-other-bullshit-expanations reason is:

Readership is down.

Every other tangential reason executives give for declining revenues can be traced back to that fact. "Ad revenues are down." Because fewer people are seeing the ads. "There are so many other outlets competing for readers' attention." And you're losing that competition. "People don't like to read." Tell Dan Brown that. People don't like to read you.

But why is readership down? As I speculated in a response to my friend:

Newspapers trade on their reputation for honesty and integrity -- the fourth estate is supposed to watch over government, big business, etc. and expose dishonesty and corruption. When the watchdog is -- or is percieved to be -- as guilty of these things as those who are being watched (and, re-reading, I would add "or appears to be in bed with those they are supposed to be watching," --Dr. S), the watchdog becomes useless. Newspapers are supposed to be where people can find the truth in a fog of press releases, advertisements, spokespeople and political campaigns. When newspapers become just another outlet for "the message," when honesty and integrity are gone, gone too will be newspapers. After all, do you know anyone who pays for advertisements?

Later, I received from a source the following announcement by a trade group for professional PR people:

"Meet the Media: Philadelphia's Finest"
Friday, October 14, 2005

Join us for an informative and interactive media panel that will include representatives from some of Philadelphia's most prestigious media outlets as they offer tips on getting your pitches heard by the right people, and your news covered.

Media you'll have the opportunity to meet and hear from include (representatives from the Philadelphia Business Journal, Philadelphia Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer).
Reporters and editors like press releases because it's a lot easier to let news find you than to go find it. So the above pubs and reps are attending this panel discussion to make sure PR flacks address their releases so carefully that they don't even have to go looking around the newsroom to find news. Plus, it's fun to be a celebrity.

Here's a quiz:

1. If they're spending their time focusing the delivery of press releases (90 percent of which are total bullshit), what aren't they spending that time doing?

If you said "gathering real news that matters to people," give yourself a point.

2. Does regurgitating press releases and allowing public-relations people to shape the contents of tomorrow's newspaper instead of publishing real news that matters to people help increase sales or does it contribute to a decrease in sales?

If you said "contributes to a decrease in sales," give yourself another point.

3. Does a decrease in sales indicate an increase in readership or a decrease in readership?

If you said "a decrease in readership," you probably noticed the grammatical clue in the question, but a correct answer is a correct answer. Congratulations, you passed the quiz with a perfect score. Unfortuantely, you're therefore not qualified to run newsroom operations at the majority of daily papers in the United States. If it's any consolation, you probably would've been a dynamo 20 years ago.

Extra credit (if you really want to suck up to the blogger): Was this quiz oversimplified?

If you said "of course," you've really hit it out of the park. Of course there are lots of difficult issues that top editors face in today's newsroom, like making sure the story about the publisher's wife's birthday party gets in, along with the photo he selected personally; preventing libelous content from getting in the paper so the paper doesn't get sued; ensuring the publisher's personal political bias is reflected on the front page; and making absolutely certain that no story reflects poorly on the parent company or an advertiser.

And writing layoff memos.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Good season

It's disappointing to see the season end, especially so soon into the postseason, but we Sox fans have been spoiled the last couple of years. The Sox have made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, which they have never done before in their history. True, they made it as a Wild Card each time, but this year they ended the regular season with the same record as the Stinkins. To me, that's a tie; don't hand me any nonsense about bullshit tiebreakers. Save that crap for the NFL and BCS.

It was nice to see David and Manny go down fighting tonight. And it was a real thrill to watch Ortiz play out-of-his-mind, MVP-caliber baseball this year. He's my pick for MVP. And don't hand me any shit about his not playing defense. The DH is an abomination, but if we're going to live with it, there's no reason DH's shouldn't be considered for postseason awards. If they're not players, what are they?

And while we're at it, I don't want to hear any A-Rod crap, either. He's a great player, but he's surrounded by great players. If the MVP award recognizes the most valuable player, it should go to the guy who did the most to get his team where it is. Ortiz was Mr. Clutch all season long, and the Sox would have been toast without him. If the Stinkins didn't have A-Rod, they could just lean on another of their seven starting All-Stars to carry them.

Watch this site for season wrap-up entries, including team awards, offseason shopping lists and hot stove league updates.

Thanks for an enjoyable season, Sox. Go Angels!

Friday, October 07, 2005


President Bush is actively looking for a replacement for retiring Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, his mouthpiece Scotty said today. I'm going to make a prediction on this. Not about who will be selected, because that's irrelevant. I'm going to predict what will be selected, because that's the part that really matters.

My prediction: Bush's choice will be a partisan hack who will merely push the administration's agenda and never introduce reality to the inside of the bubble.

Anybody want to take action on this? I'll lay favorable odds. I wouldn't advise anyone to bet against me, but I'll be happy to take your money if you do.

The reason I'm so certain is that nearly all of Bush's appointments are partisan hacks who tell the president what he wants to hear. Those who didn't are long gone. Remember Colin Powell? Paul O'Neill? The White House isn't taking their calls these days. They've been replaced by Condi Rice, who you know isn't going to rock the bubble, and John "He can stay as long as he wants, provided it is not very long" Snow, who appears to have fallen quietly into line after his job security was publicly threatened.

Some of Bush's appointments have been controversial because they have nothing resembling qualifications for the positions they were given. Consider Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. His only experience with underprivileged people is conspiring about how to justify blowing them up. Consider Brownie at FEMA and his predecessor, Joe Allbaugh. The only federal emergency Allbaugh oversaw before his appointment was the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign. Consider who was said to be on the short list to replace Snow when he looked like a short-timer over at Treasury -- Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, or "bubble guard," and John Bolton. Consider John Bolton, whose appointment as U.N. ambassador is akin to holding a cow flop contest in your best friend's living room.

Consider Bush's current Supreme Court appointee, Harriet Miers, who has as much experience as a judge as I do. Her main qualification: She's Bush's lawyer. If that's not stacking the deck, what is?

Considering all that, I think I'm on safe ground predicting that people looking for an appointee with vision, wisdom, the best interests of the nation at heart, or even qualifications are going to be disappointed by the president yet again. A friend of mine says, "If BushCo ever makes an appointment I can respect, I'll eat my hat." Her hat appears safe.

Disagree? Bet against me at your own risk.

I thought drug companies were supposed to make you feel not sickened

I guess you can't put anything past a company that has no qualms about marketing a product that they know causes heart attacks.

The judge in the second Vioxx product liability trial delivered a stunning blow to Merck & Co. Friday when she struck the testimony of its first defense witness from the record.

With the jury outside, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee said she felt misled and sickened upon rereading the transcript of Thursday's testimony by a Merck researcher who said studies by the company in the late 1990s showed the pain reliever would not cause heart damage.

Higbee struck the testimony of Merck researcher Dr. Briggs Morrison from the record because she said he was not an expert on the studies he had told the jury about Thursday, nor did Merck give the court sufficient notice about what he would discuss.
You would think that an industry that is supposed to help the sick and infirmed would attract more principled people. Well, I suppose the scientists who develop the medicines still keep the company's mission statement in their minds, but executives control the cash -- run afoul of those swine and the only research you'll be doing is figuring out where you're getting your next meal.

Has anything ever been improved by adding executives to the mix? Executives should be hunted for sport.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tuesday's game preview

The Sox hand Matt Clement (13-6, 4.57) the ball for game one of their best-of-five with Chicago. The White Sox counter with Jose Contreras (15-7, 3.61). Contreras is pitching well of late, but the Sox lineup is a powerhouse that led the league in several offensive catgories. If the Sox can keep Contreras in the stretch and the pressure on the defense, their playoff experience could be an advantage.

Go Sox!

Qualifications schmalifications

I see the FEMA Fiasco hasn't changed the president's policy on appointing unqualified cronies. I think the headline says it pretty clearly.

Court Nominee Has No Judicial Experience

President Bush named White House counsel Harriet Miers to a Supreme Court in transition Monday, turning to a longtime loyalist with no experience as a judge and scant public record on abortion to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Miers has served as an adviser to Bush for more than a decade, in positions as varied as private attorney, chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission and in the White House.
I wonder if we can expect the same stellar performance that we got from Brownie.

Don't DeLay, DePart

These charges, the Republican Congressman claims, also are groundless:

A Texas grand jury on Monday re-indicted Rep. Tom DeLay on charges of conspiring to launder money and money laundering after the former majority leader attacked last week's indictment on technical grounds.

The new indictment, handed up by a grand jury seated Monday, contained two counts. The money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison. The charge of conspiracy to launder money is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Last week, DeLay was charged with conspiracy to violate campaign-finance laws, forcing him to leave his leadership position.
Now how many photo-ops of DeLay walking out in front of a group of other Republican Congressmen "in a show of support" are going to be needed to make the stench fade? And how long until it becomes difficult to cast these shoots?

The charges are getting serious. Campaign-finance violations are hard for voters to wrap their heads around, and while they make the politician sound like a weasel, they don't seem important enough to lock somebody up over. After all, "politician" and "weasel" are practically synonyms. Politicans are pretty much expected to violate campaign-finance laws, even if the laws were created by the people whose behavior they are supposed to govern and therefore full of gaping holes designed to keep the cash a-flowin'.

But now we're talking money laundering, which isn't quite so esoteric. This makes DeLay sound like a common thug, which, of course, he is. Even if he never sees the inside of a prison cell, and he probably won't, this might be the point at which the GOP leadership decides to cut bait. And even if money laundering charges don't make the GOP squeamish or cause sudden pangs of conscience within the party, even if we see another choreographed "rally of support," the voters might do what the party doesn't have the balls to do.

Which is as it should be. Because if "politician" and "weasel" are synonyms, it's dishonorable scum like DeLay who have made them so, and we can't be expected to lower our standards forever. Do the right thing for once, Tom: Resign, and go peddle your weak-ass "prosecutorial abuse" bullshit on the public-speaking circuit.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Sunday's games finalized the AL playoff picture. The Sox are headed to Chicago and the Stinkins, by virtue of the ass kicking they received from the Sox, are headed to Anaheim.

The Sox and the Stinkins finished the season with identical 95-67 records, but a "tiebreaker" gave the AL East title to the Stinkins.

Tiebreaker? What is this, the NFL? I thought ties were broken on the field. I understand that the Sox would rather have the off day than go to the Bronx to determine playoff matchups, but I thought the division title meant something. If MLB is going to stoop to tiebreakers, let it then admit that division titles are meaningless. That means I don't want to hear any more shit about consecutive division titles for the Stinkins, and how the Sox always finish second in the division. If the new standard is simply making the playoffs, then let's at least be honest about it.

Not that I'm unhappy about the Sox being the wild card team. They're in and that's what matters. But if division opponents have identical records, they're tied.

Anyway, the Sox open up in Chicago Tuesday. The Sox are 4-3 against Chicago this season and compare favorably against them in many offensive categories: a team batting average of .281 versus .262 for the pale hose, a .455 team slugging percentage versus.425, and most importantly, the Red Sox scored 910 runs this season, while Chicago scored 741.

Pitching, however, is another story: Chicago has a team ERA of 3.61, compared with 4.74 for the Sox. Timlin will have to be rock solid in save situations and Schill will have to be Schill -- he may have struggled this season but he's still one of the best big-game pitchers in the league. And now all the games are big.

Go Sox! Go Angels!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Life in the bubble

Rumsfeld may have inadvertantly provided the most telling quote in this story.

President George W. Bush sought on Saturday to dispel concerns about the readiness of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, declaring himself "encouraged" even though his top generals say the number of battalions that can fight insurgents without help has dropped.

"I'm encouraged by the increasing size and capability of the Iraqi security forces. Today they have more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country, and our commanders report that the Iraqi forces are serving with increasing effectiveness," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

One of the few measures the Pentagon has offered the public to judge the capabilities of Iraqi security forces has been the number of battalions that can go into combat with insurgents without the help of the U.S. military.

During congressional testimony on Thursday, Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said the number of such battalions had dropped since July to one from three, out of the roughly 100 Iraqi battalions.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sought to play down the new estimate on Friday, saying, "Its relevance is minimal."
Bush says Iraqi security forces are growing in size and capability. General Abizaid said the number of Iraqi battalions that can fight without the support of U.S. troops has fallen. Whom do you believe?

Dorf on stocks

Would you buy stock from this guy?

Here's a rundown on some of the biggest moves in the past few days among U.S. stocks with market values of $1 billion or more.

The move that interested me most was a drop in Diebold Inc. (DBD), the North Canton, Ohio, maker of automated teller machines and other self-service delivery systems. The stock has fallen to less than $34.51 from $48 at the beginning of September.

I believe that electronic identification technology can be used for lots of things besides getting cash from your bank when the bank is closed. It could be a useful solution to the voting-fraud problem, for example.
And, as Diebold has shown, it also can be a useful cause of the voting-fraud problem. But I suppose Dorf is right: Being that Diebold got in on the ground floor, as traders say, in the election-fraud game, the company should be uniquely positioned to provide the solution.

Only in America. Call your broker, ye of no conscience.

Publicity stunt

I have to disagree with Frank Lautenberg.

Senator Lautenberg, D-NJ, commented Friday on statements former Education Secretary William Bennett made on his radio program. Bennett apparently said, "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down."

Lautenberg called the comments "reprehensible and racist." On that, I agree with him. But Lautenberg said the president's statement that Bennett's comments were "not appropriate" wasn't forceful enough.

I think Lautenberg should keep in mind who we're talking about here. After all, when W. finally made his first trip to the Gulf Coast after Katrina hit, all he could think to say while surrounded by destruction and suffering was how much he's looking forward to sitting on Trent Lott's new porch. For those who have forgotten, Lott was making apologies for the racist policies of segregationists as recently as 2002.

Considering that, I think we should be happy that W. can remember to say that Bennett's comments were the opposite of appropriate.

Speaking of not forceful enough, Lautenberg plans to introduce a resolution in the Senate condemning Bennett's comments.


Besides being a complete waste of time (what does it accomplish other than putting Lautenberg firmly on the record as anti-racism? Was there some question about his position on the issue? Why not introduce a resolution condemning crime as "bad" while you're at it, Frank?), it plays right into Bennett's hands.

Who even knew Bennett had a radio program? All Lautenberg is doing is drawing attention to the program. Judging by what Bennett said, that's all he was after. You know what they say: even bad pub is pub. Most likely, Bennett is just trying to attract listeners, who he thinks now will tune in "to see what he will say next." It's a common ploy among radio idiots, as common as laughing like crazy at every little thing to make listeners think a show is funnier than it is.

Unfortunately for Bennett, there's a difference between being interesting and being an asshole.

I'm not familiar with his show, but it's syndicated by Salem Radio Network, a company that syndicates programming to more than 1,600 radio stations in the United States. The corporation also owns Salem Web Network, which provides Christian content on the Internet, and Salem Publishing, a Christian magazine publisher.

The show has been on the air less than a year and a half. If Bennett is resorting to cheap PR stunts, it's probably in trouble. So Lautenberg and everybody else should just ignore Bennett and eventually he will go away.