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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Justice Souter gets taste of own medicine

This is a story I first read on PettyRage yesterday, but I decided not to comment on my own blog until I hit other sites to confirm. Plus, I was pretty tired yesterday and not quite in the mood to tackle something like this. But, apparently, as strange as it sounds, it's true. A developer based out of LA is attempting to seize "Justice" Souter's farmhouse in Weare, Connecticut, just a ways down the road from New London. Then again, in Connecticut, every town is just down the road a ways. My first thoughts were, "my hero," and "if he were a female..." Bah, Petty Rage's terrible twosome have already said anything I would have to say, except no wife to worry about pissing off. As nice a guy as I am, I'm just enough of an asshole to do that if I had the money and the inventiveness, I'd do that. If denied a permit, I hope he sues as far as he has to go to get it, and I hope that the city of Weare is forced to pay a pittance as is all too common in other "eminent domain" cases. Term limits were introduced to the Presidency of the United States to provide yet another check on the power of the executive branch. Decisions like this make me seriously wonder if this might not be a good thing to apply to the judiciary. I think Justice O'Connor's very harsh dissent was spot-on, and I fear that this is merely another volley by the left-leaning members of the Supreme Court to erode personal rights. The first major volley this session was, of course, Gonzales v. Raich (medical marijuana). I never thought I'd see the day that my least favorite Justices, Ginsburg and Souter, agree with President Bush, let alone work with him to limit personal liberty. I'm very sorry that day has come, and it is my sincerest hope and equally sincere doubt that the Supreme Court comes to realize their great folly and outright disregard for their duties and reverse their course.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Internet and the coarsening of people's attitudes towards other people

In my family, a piece of wisdom that has been shared from generation to generation is that you can tell what type of person they are by the way they treat animals. Regardless of the faith, in my case none, this is something I can trace back at least four generations and probably goes much farther. Recent days have forced me to reflect on this. This is what I've decided.

One of the few areas where animals are superior to people is their inability to be duplicitous, petty, or outright cruel. Just as one should never be cruel to an animal, one should also never be cruel to another human. On the internet, it's often very easy to fall into a trap where you forget that, no matter how misguided, wrong, annoying, crude, vulgar, vain, or just weird, words seem on the computer monitor; there is actually a real, breathing human being staring at another monitor at words they've written. Those words may have been written in jest, in rage, in fear, in malice, or even in an attempt to ease some crushing loneliness. I have fallen into that trap before, and upon reflection, I dishonored myself by behaving as I have in some instances. The internet, and especially the blogsphere, should be a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas. Attacking bad ideas is good, and is necessary for the intellectual growth of not only the person making the remarks, but the person to whom the remarks have been made. There's even some merit to exposing the idiocy of others, as they may be unaware that they are so completely wrong. However, it's equally important to steer clear of the line that separates confronting ideas and within reason the people who have them. Attacking innocent bystanders and/or preying on their weaknesses for petty amusement is something that should never be done.

One of my links to the left is a site called Petty Rage. Me? I've done that in the past, and gotten most of it out of my system. Now, I'm more interested in trying to find some order in the beautiful, wonderful and sometimes scary chaos that is life.

A proposed solution to the problems of the NHL and all US/Canadian Major Leagues

Professional sports elsewhere around the world are organized so that, just because you are in the top flight one year, does not guarantee that you will be the next. They treat membership in a league at any level as a privilege that must be earned from year to year. Currently, if a team, for example, in the NFL goes winless, something I've seen at least a couple of times, they're still guaranteed to be in the NFL the next season. Oftentimes, teams that know they have no shot at the playoffs just roll over and play dead the last game or two of the season, since they know it won't mean anything. However, in other leagues, the games among those at the bottom of the field take on as much, if not more, importance than those at the top of the field as the end of the season draws nigh. I will use as an example the English football (soccer) system, as that is the one with which I am the most familiar.

The following applies to all leagues in the English system: A win is 3 points in the standings; a draw, 1; and a loss gets a team nothing. If two or more teams are tied, they go to goal difference, and after that, I honestly don't know, though it rarely goes beyond that first tiebreaker. The English Premier League has 20 teams, with the bottom 3 teams being relegated to the Football Championship League at the end of each season. Each team plays each other twice, once at home, and once away, for a total of 38 league games per team per season. There are 24 teams each in the Football Championship League (3 relegated teams), Football League 1 (4 relegated teams), and Football League 2 (2 relegated teams). In each of these lower leagues, the top performing teams in the lower leagues are automatically promoted to the next highest league until all but one promotion slot is filled. The last promotion slot is determined by a playoff of the top 4 teams that did not get an automatic promotion. In addition, in all leagues in the English football system, teams may lose points in the standings and even face expulsion from that level of play for the most serious infractions

The two teams that are relegated from the Football League 2 are removed to the Football Conference, with all divisions having 22 teams each. The winner of the Football Conference is promoted to take one team's place, with the other promotion being determined by a playoff of the 2nd through 5th teams. The bottom 3 teams are relegated to two coequal divisions, the Football Conference North or Football Conference South based on geography. The winners of each division are promoted automatically, with a playoff among the 2nd through 5th teams of both the FC North and FC South, with the 3rd and final promotion spot being decided by the winners of the North and the South promotion playoffs. 3 teams from both the FC North and the FC South are relegated to one of three still lower leagues (the Isthmian League, Southern League, and Northern Premier League), each of which also has lower divisions, with the lowest division of each drawing from the various Feeder Leagues.

At the end of the 2004-2005 EPL season, there were four teams that were vying for the final survival spot: Norwich City (33 p, -29 GD), Southampton (32 p, -20 GD), Crystal Palace (32 p, -21 GD), and West Bromwich Albion (31 p, -27 GD). If Norwich City won, it didn't matter what the other three teams did because they'd all be relegated. If Southampton and Crystal Palace won, and Norwich City did no better than a draw, it would go to Goal Difference, but if only one of them won, they would automatically win the last survival spot. The only way West Bromwich Albion would ensure their survival is if the other three teams did no better than a draw. This was the atmosphere at four stadia in the English Premier League on Closing Day, May 15. All games started at the same time, 1500 local, so no one had an advantage knowing exactly what they had to do to survive. Everyone had all but written off WBA far earlier in the season, everyone, that is, except themselves. So here's how it went down: Norwich City got destroyed by Fulham 6-0. Southampton lost 2-1 to the heavily favored Manchester United (3rd in the league, 77 p, +32 GD). Crystal Palace scored a 2-2 draw against Charlton Athletic. And then, there was WBA, the team that had been the laughing stock of the Prem. Shocking everyone except themselves, they won 2-0 over Portsmouth, and at the end of the match, stood still waiting for word on the other matches. Slowly, as the word trickled through the stadium, there was this huge roar, people hugging strangers, tears flowing, and fans rushing onto the pitch as they learned that their team would be in England's top flight next year. I doubt the energy, the emotion, was any greater when Chelsea clinched their first Premiership trophy in 50 years than it was in that stadium that afternoon.

Can you imagine what it would be like if that were the way it is in all of the US/Canadian top flight sports? This is what I would like to see in our sports, where every game and every fan is considered immensely valuable and important. But, alas, I don't think I'll ever see it in my lifetime. Still, I've been wrong before, and I've only rarely wanted so badly to be wrong. Is anybody with me?

Monday, June 27, 2005

The end of one asshole, and the birth of another

I really hate to admit it (okay, not really), but I'm all but dancing with a near-manic glee at the situation John Rocker finds himself in. He has now been waived from a team that, to my understanding, is so far removed from the major leagues for which he once pitched that the officials look to high school baseball game attendance rates with envy. He managed to amass an 0-2 record in only 18 IP in 23 games, and a 6.50 ERA in one of the lowest leagues in all of baseball. Rocker, a man who once insulted gays, foreigners, and minorities in NEW YORK CITY during a minor, unimportant set of games known as THE WORLD SERIES, is finally exiting stage left (or in his case, far-right). Pardon me while I fiddle as his career burns. And no, I'm not having a seizure. I'm just that uncoordinated.

But as I've said from time to time, things occur in cycles. Where there is death (in this case metaphorical), there's also life, rebirth. A new asshole has risen to take John Rocker's place. In case you've been in a coma for the last year or two, in the 2004-2005 season, the NHL did what no other North American major league has ever done before: Lost an entire season due to a labor dispute. The expected and honorable response by both the players and the owners would be pennance, expressions of deep sorrow and regret, or put simply, grovelling. But Jeremy Roenick has decided to take a different track. In a profanity-laden outburst, he encouraged people who believe the lockout was about players' greed to stay home and not watch the games. He's provided this "advice" although the television ratings place them 4th among major sports in the U.S. and Canada, well behind the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Furthermore, he accused the fans who called him and the other players "spoiled", who, ultimately write his pay check, "jealous". As a fan, Mr. Roenick, I can say without any reservation that I am not and will never be jealous of your spoiled ass. I'M PISSED OFF!!! I'm so pissed off at both the NHLPA and the NHL owners for, while realizing they were at the lip of the waterfall, decided that the proper course of action was to angrily argue with each other over the placement of artwork in the rooms instead of reversing course and averting disaster. That was a year that was entirely wasted, a year the fans and the players will never be able to get back, a year that could have had some of the greatest games in the history of hockey or at least given rise to new stars, but instead was nothing. And for what? For millionaires to argue with billionaires? For fans to resort to AAA leagues to get their hockey fix and realize that what they've really been missing are teams that play for the love of the game? Mr. Roenick, your compatriots should be deeply ashamed of themselves, but you have proven that you have no place in the game at all. So retire, and I hope the league uses this opportunity to ban you for life unless you make a REALLY good apology. I don't want "I'm sorry if people were offended." I want deep, true pennance, and tears would be nice, and then, MAYBE, you should be accepted back in the league on a trial basis and under the auspices of a one-strike-your-out policy.

Friday, June 10, 2005

People who Really Piss Me Off: Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel

He and his fellow fearmongers have only succeeded in gaining the contempt of the entire North Central Gulf Coast and creating a panic when none is warranted. Believe me when I say that anyone who has lived in this area for any substantial length of time knows the risks hurricanes pose, and more importantly, we know when to start worrying about hurricanes. A low-grade Category 1, which is the projected landfall strength of now-Tropical Storm Arlene is NOT a cause for worry except for those who live near rivers, streams, coastal areas, and low-lying areas. Furthermore, Jim Cantore and his fellow coworkers have exacerbated future problems by reducing their credibility when a real storm is headed someone’s way. Several local news personalities are talking about wanting this to be a “One and Out,” actually WELCOMING the storm in the belief that this will be the only hit the coastal counties of Mississippi, Alabama, and Northwest Florida experience this year. Having evacuated from Hurricane Ivan last year, remembering the sheer living hell those days were even from over 200 miles away, while I think that’s excessively optimistic, I can certainly understand that mindset. I remember that even though the trip up was an experience I never want to repeat, the days of waiting and the warnings on the way down that gas supplies were questionable; the days after I returned, seeing empty grocery stores; and the stories from those who stayed behind may have actually been worse. I’m not quite sure as I was, like so many of my neighbors, in the midst of trying to cope with the emotional and practical concerns the disaster caused.

Arlene is not projected to even approach that intensity. Yet, Jim Cantore, probably at the behest of his bosses or at the very least without their disapproval, is playing up the drama. So the next time an Ivan, or a Hugo, or an Andrew, or any of a number of nightmares to have hit over the years, heads our way, some people will remember this and not take appropriate precautions. Thank you, Weather Channel. It is my sincerest hope that your grab for ratings doesn’t cost lives down the road.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed: W. Mark Felt, Sr.

As a recovering Republican, I can certainly sympathize with paleoconservatives who kiss G. Gordon Liddy's ass and think Pat Buchanan is the second coming of Jesus H. Christ. Actually, I can't, because I don't think I've ever been quite that much of a stupid asshole. When I heard Mr. Liddy's statement that former Deputy Director of the FBI Felt was "honor-bound" to call a grand jury investigation instead of selectively leaking information, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. First, the only way Mr. Liddy knows the meaning of "honor" is by consulting any dictionary nearby, and second, we've all seen what happens when grand jury investigations are brought against a sitting president, or have you forgotten Bill Clinton's myriad scandals already? They go nowhere, at most very minor players are punished, and nothing really changes. What Nixon was doing to and with the FBI and other government entities was nothing less than nefarious at best, and, at worst, treating the government of the United States of America as his personal empire with a lack of regard bordering and often crossing over into contempt for the very Constitution he swore before God and millions of witnesses to protect. Desperate times call for truly desperate measures, and the times during which Richard Nixon was in office were among the most desperate times our great nation has ever faced, in no small part thanks to the man himself, though to be fair to Tricky Dick, he did inherit a huge shitstorm from his predecessors in Viet Nam. His family and closest colleagues, people who knew him for decades, have described him as a man of honor who would do whatever it takes to see that justice is served. Having been stifled by King Richard and seeing all sorts of crimes being committed, and possibly having a good sense of what would really come of a grand jury investigation being started against a sitting president, he did what he felt he had to do. For this, some may call him a rogue, a coward, a criminal of the worst sort. Me? I call him a hero in the truest, deepest sense of the word. I say this with my head held high and my heart full, "Thank you, Deputy Director Felt." And I hope that, were a similar situation were to recur, there may be others to follow your example.