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Thursday, May 29, 2003

Boston 8, New York 4.

1. Yes I know, Roger Clemens is going to get his 300th win one of these days.

2. It will have to be against someone other than the Red Sox.

3. Although now that I think about it, from the standpoint of a Red Sox Fan, it wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing if it were to come against the Sox, since if it did, it wouldn’t come for another month, since the next time the Sox face the Evil Empire after this series is at Fenway on July 4.

4. I don’t hate him enough to hope he breaks his arm or something. I do loathe him enough that, ideally, his big moment of triumph would come in front of 8,508 indifferent fans at Tropicana “Field” against the hapless Devil Rays. Montreal would be good too, although the Yankees don’t play them this season. (That would be even better – it’d mean Clemens would likely be pitching for another team by the time he wins his next game, or that he doesn’t win another game this season.)

5. The next time Clemens pitches is probably going to be in Detroit, and given how feeble Los Tigres are these days, he’ll probably get his win there. I think that might satisfy my ill wishes for him.

6. Although maybe they can sell out Comerica that day. That would be a very good thing for baseball.

7. Even better for baseball, and for Clemens- and Yankee-haters everywhere, would be a season-long quest for Win #300, where attendees pile into what would otherwise be half-empty ballparks across the continent, so that they might bear witness to history in the making.

8. At the same time, those fans will wonder if we will be seeing the last Win #300 ever. Greg Maddux, 36, is 24 wins short at present; though he is struggling this season, I think can he make it to 300. Tom Glavine is the same age as Maddux, but at 242 wins is two full seasons behind his longtime Braves teammate. Randy Johnson, a late bloomer, was rolling right along until this season, but is 38, on the DL, and 75 wins short. There doesn’t seem to anyone beyond Clemens and Maddux on the horizon, unless Mike Mussina starts regularly putting up 20-win seasons, or Pedro Martinez has a career longevity that few anticipate for him given his injury history.

9. Then again…never underestimate the capacity of the game to change. People have done so at their peril.

10. It’s been about 13 years since Nolan Ryan won his 300th game, an unusually long time – historically - for baseball to between 300-game winners. There has been no active 300-game winner since Ryan retired in 1993. I don’t expect that to happen afterwards, since I think Maddux will hang around long enough to notch his 300th.

11. I missed Clemens’ first chance at 300 entirely due to working a long night, but when I woke up around noon, I didn’t see any pictures of Roger Clemens, on either the front page or on the front page of the Sports section, of the Washington Post. From that I knew he didn’t get his win, and that the Sox most likely won the game, which they did.

12. When people ask me “Are you rooting for him?” I just look at them funny, as if they had just asked me if I wanted to watch a “700 Club” marathon. Are you crazy?

13. Clemens and Wade Boggs. Imagine that the two greatest players you can ever remember playing for your team both left on bad terms, dissed you and your fellow fans more than once in public statements, and then won it all - not only with another team, but with the team that you least want to see win anything. . (Carl Yazstremski was in the twilight of his career by the time I started watching baseball, I was too young to truly appreciate the prime of Jim Rice’s carrer, Dewey Evans wasn’t quite at the top tier, and the book on Pedro, Nomar, and Manny remains open.) Redskin fans can now imagine what it would be like if John Riggins and Joe Thiesmann never won a Super Bowl for you – but did win one for the Cowboys. Now multiply that a couple times, and it’s not hard to understand why we boo the hell out of both Boggs and Clemens whenever their names are mentioned.

14. But a lot of us still pull for Drew Bledsoe, as hard as that is to do when he’s with a division rival. And of course we all were pulling for Ray Borque winning a Stanley Cup with Colorado, despite the presence of longtime Canadien Patrick Roy. We would have been happy for Carlton Fisk had he won it all with Chicago – not that there was any danger of that happening, the White Sox being the White Sox and all.

15. This column from the Bill Simmons archive pretty much sums it up.

16. However, I have to admit that Simmons’ newer entry doesn’t quite get the tone right. Like I said, I’m not rooting for him to break his arm into eight pieces or anything, nor do I think most of us in Red Sox Nation feel quite that way. Of course, some of us do.

17. I was watching the first 20-strikeout game in April 1986. It was something to behold. Since I was only 12, I didn’t really comprehend the history of what was going on.

18. One thing that people forget about that game is that Mike Moore was matching Clemens on the scoreboard, if not in the record books, for most of the evening. In fact, the Mariners drew first blood in the top of the 7th and led 1-0 on a solo homer by Gorman Thomas. The Sox broke through when Dewey Evans hit a 3-run dinger in the bottom of the 7th, chasing Moore, and that was all that the Rocket needed. From that homer on, the historical significance swamped everything.

19. Later in that season, it was odd seeing that two of the guys in Seattle’s lineup that night – Dave Henderson and Spike Owen - wearing Boston uniforms after a mid-summer trade. Henderson ended up on the Giants the following year, then the As, which meant he played in five postseasons in a row. The weird thing is how well Hendu did in the 1986 postseason – he hit only .196 during the ’86 season after coming over from Seattle, and hit only .234 in ’87 before being shipped to San Francisco to make room for Ellis Burks.

20. During rain delays of Red Sox games in the late 1980s, they would sometimes replay footage from the April 29, 1986 game. It used to give me goosebumps. I wonder what that footage would do for me now, since I haven’t seen it since Clemens flew the coop.

21. Insert forlorn, world-weary sigh here.

22. The first time I saw Clemens pitch in person was a late September 1986 2-1 extra-inning loss to the Blue Jays; the Sox were trying to clinch a mathematical AL East tie at the time, which they would do the next afternoon. Like every game – or so it seemed - in 1986, he was on, just so on it wasn’t funny.

23. And yet, deep down, you just knew in the back of your mind he was the kind of guy you’d hate if he was on another team. Not “hate” in the “damn, I’m envious of the other team who has him” sense, “hate” in the “what a dirty player” sense. Simmons explained a lot of this already, so I don’t need to in depth. I’ll mention the Mike Piazza imbroglio and move on.

24. There are a lot of guys like that, not just Clemens, in the history of pro sports. Jose Canseco was like that once, before he became more of a joke than anything else. Bill Romanowski is like that. Keyshawn Johnson is like that. At least a few Pistons fans have admitted that Bill Laimbeer was like that. Hockey goons are generally like that.

25. That last thought reminded me of how weird it was to see Chris Nilan don a Bruins jersey late in his career. If you were a Bruins fan in the 1980s, Chris Nilan was the embodiment of evil, which made the whole experience very awkward as long as it lasted.

26. I don’t remember feeling that betrayed as long as Clemens was in Toronto, toiling for what was otherwise a humdrum team. The Jays had only delusions of mediocrity while he played there, and, let’s face it, even when the Jays were really good in the late 80s and early 90s, it was hard to care all that much about them one way or the other.

27. Then he used some sort of shady clause in his contract to force a trade to, of all people, the Yankees. Not just any team, not to a team in his home state of Texas (which he had prattled on and on about to the media), but the team. Not that he should base his entire life on what Fenway fans will do, but, do you honest think you’ll get anything but the lustiest boos when you show your face there?

28. Granted, Dan Duquette did no one (least of all himself) any favors by trashing Clemens as he was walking out the door. The Duke had above average talent evaluation skills, and was quite adept at getting useful players (Brian Daubach, Troy O’Leary) for nothing, and for some shrewd trades (Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb, Pedro Martinez for Carl Pavano and Ryan McGuire. ) He had no people skills though, undermined his handpicked manager (Jimy Williams, who also did much to undermine himself, to be sure) by taking sides with the likes of Carl Everett in clubhouse skirmishes.

29. Speaking of Duquette’s ultimate replacement as GM (Mike Port was only interim) 29 is the age of Theo Epstein. Which is the same age as the Answer Guy. How depressing.

30. At the time of the Clemens signing, it seemed like the logical thing to do for the Sox was to let him leave. Apart from one brief two-month flash of brilliance at the end, Clemens’ performance since he had signed his last huge contract in 1992 had generally been well short of his usual standards.

31. He left because someone, namely Toronto, wanted to pay him more to leave Boston. Of course it was about the money. It’s nearly always about the money.

32. Sometimes I wish pro athletes were more willing to just admit that it was about the money, since, well, of course it’s about the money. Who wouldn’t take another job, similar to your current one, if it paid a million dollars more than your current job? Are fans really that stupid that they think it’s not about the money?

33. Then I remember pro sports is supposed to be a distraction, a mythical world where grown men play a boys’ game, and all the troubles of the outside world somehow don’t matter once you’re in the sanctum of the ballfield. Yes, baseball is a business. But people who chant the “baseball is a business” mantra risk a fundamental misunderstanding of the product that is being sold. The product is not “widgets.” The product is not just about the literal athletic feats on the baseball field. The feeling you get when you walk into Fenway Park and gaze at the Green Monster, or the awe on your face upon looking at the monuments just beyond the outfield fence at Yankee Stadium, or the simple architectural marvel of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, is part of the product. So is the feeling that you’ve stepped into a more innocent time when you walk the streets of Cooperstown, New York. That sense of “warm and fuzzies” is the goose that lays the golden eggs for baseball, and for sport.

34. Has the world gotten harder for me to ignore or brush aside for baseball because I’m older and wiser, or because baseball has lost something intangible?

35. Sometimes I wonder about the “what if” possibilities of 21 being retired at Fenway. The Red Sox had been very strict about retiring numbers; generally, a guy had to finish his career in Boston, and be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. (Joe Cronin of course played for other teams, but finished his career in Boston, and played 11 of his 20 seasons there.) For Carlton Fisk they backed down a little – he spent more time with Chicago and hung his spikes as a White rather than as a Red Sock. He got let through because he was a New England native and grew up a Sox fan, the fans almost universally loved him, his departure was blamed entirely on management, and he never reached a World Series with the “other” Sox, and, well, if most people in Chicago can’t be bothered to care one way or the other about the Pale Hose most of the time, why should Bostonians? And, well, while it is possible to lay much of the blame for the bad blood between Boston and the Rocket on management, the other factors there don’t hold at all. When Clemens leaves the majors, someone else should get to wear #21. The Fenway fans will get used to it.

36. Elegantly simple, I’d say. 9. 4. 1. 8. Ted Williams. Bobby Doerr. Joe Cronin. Carl Yazstremski. It seems like some teams now will retire anyone’s number.

37. When I originally conceived of this idea, I wanted to write one thought about each of Clemens’ career wins. Then I realized quickly that Clemens would have won his 300th by the time I was able to muster 299 different paragraphs, even if I were to let myself ramble with abandon. So I tried to come up with a number. No way could I get to 299. I had already passed 21, his number. I was close to 39, his age. I settled on 64, the number of wins (regular season only) he has notched since turning over to the Dark Side.

38. The rude thrashing the Red Sox gave Clemens in Fenway Park in their lone win of the 1999 ALCS against the Yankees was almost enough by itself to dull the pain of watching the Yankees win the four other games on the way to their World Series. Almost.

39. That game also reminded me of how bad his record was in the post-season with the Sox. He always seemed to come up short, and while the pen and the defense would sometimes blow it for him, he seemed to look more beatable in the clutch. (Yeah, Sports Guy goes over that too, including the way Dave Stewart always seemed to beat him.)

40. Maybe it’s because I’m a Red Sox/Celtics fan and a bleeding heart, but I’ve always found it inconceivable for someone to pull for the Yankees or Lakers. Are there people who cheer for the Empire when they watch the “Star Wars” trilogy? Are there people who watch “Revenge of the Nerds” and root for the Alpha Betas? If you are both a Yankee fan and a Laker fan (I know a couple of these people), you are stealing oxygen from organisms who deserve it far more than you do, including several different types of slime mold. And this fly buzzing around my room that I haven't gotten around to killing yet.

41. A few of those questions make me wonder if I was accidentally assigned the wrong country at birth. However, then I remember the whole phenomenon that is Manchester United, the most popular pro sports team in the world, other than our little corner of it of course. I'd like to think that if I were an Englishman, I'd hate Man U. And David "Spice Boy" Beckham.

42. The answer to life, the universe, and everything. (ObGeek Reference.) Also, 42 is/was Mo Vaughn’s uniform number.

43. Sometimes I do wonder if Mo Vaughn will get massive enough that his gravitational pull will attract objects to him. I used to wonder the same thing about Roger Clemens during those years when his ERA would creep into the 4.xx range.

44. Then I remember that if there was any danger of pro athletes transforming themselves into singularities, the NFL is by far the likeliest league to present such a danger, particularly amongst offensive linemen.

45. I actually know a former NFL offensive lineman. He appeared in “The Replacements,” as a hardcore union-type player who picks up and drops Keanu Reeves’ car. He’s also got nearly the head for trivia I do. I meet the most amazing people doing document review; in a logical world, most of the people doing this stuff probably have better ways to use their various and sundry talents. This includes me.

46. My friends – especially the non-Red Sox variety thereof - laugh at me when I refer to Clemens as “The Great Judas.” I’m not sure they understand that I do this mostly to entertain them. The rest of the country thinks New Englanders are crazy anyway.

47. Back to baseball. The Yankees have been slumping, which usually means it’s about time for George Steinbrenner to make a stupid, panic-like trade. (See also Jiminez for Witasick, Big Bucks for Mondesi) Sending Nick Johnson elsewhere for a mediocre middle reliever sounds good to me, though he’s on the DL at present. I’m not especially high on Juan Rivera, but couldn’t you use a backup catcher more, George? Heh. (You may laugh, but Ed Wade of the Philles somehow turned a backup catcher into Kevin Millwood.)

48. And before you comment, no, Raul Mondesi is not anywhere near this good. And yet there he is, second on the team in general production behind Alfonso Soriano.

49. And while we’re on the subject of Soriano, would someone please tell the pitchers of the American League that there is no need to throw him strikes? (OK, so Nomar and Ichiro swing at most everything too, but they usually can reliably make contact when they do. Soriano looks like the 21st century’s answer to Juan Samuel from here, including the rotten defense.)

50. As an added bonus, King George seems to have stepped in and more or less ordered Joe Torre to give Cuban bonus “baby” Jose Contreras a start or two. Given Contreras’ numbers thusfar, this would seem like a positive step – if you’re a Red Sox fan. Then again, maybe even I could put up respectable numbers against the Tigers, especially in that big ballpark of theirs. This is as good an opportunity as any to get him into the rotation if that’s an organizational goal.

51. You’d think foreign pitchers might be less susceptible to being lured in by the Yankee “mystique” after what happened to Contreras and Hideki Irabu. I mean, Contreras might still be in the rotation in Tampa Bay even if he had pitched just as badly as he has thusfar. He would had to have pitched a little better to crack the rotation in Boston, but “better than John Burkett” is not an especially high bar these days.

52. Is Jeff Weaver the new Ed Whitson/ Kenny Rogers? (The dreaded “sucks in New York, good elsewhere” syndrome.) Or was it simply that pitching in Comerica made him look better than he really was?

53. Damn it, if the Red Sox can’t beat the Yankees at a time when the Evil Empire seems decidedly mortal against everyone else – Toronto and Texas are not exactly the juggernauts of the American League - when can they?

54. There’s a reason Bruce Chen is on his 568th team. OK, maybe it’s just eight. It just seems like he is to Transaction Reports what Michael Jackson was to plastic surgery, or the lead guitarist position is to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

55. Yesterday at the supermarket, I saw a guy wearing a Red Sox T-shirt. On the back was a number 21 with the name “Yankees Suck” on it. I wonder of what vintage that T-shirt was, if it was from the days when Clemens still pitched for the Good Guys. It didn’t look that old, though.

56. It was a shocker the first time someone at a fantasy draft picked someone other than Clemens first. This was in 1993, and in my five years of fantasy/roto baseball, it was the first time I’d ever seen a first pick other than the Rocket in a non-auction league. And yet I don’t recall who that person was – I want to say it was Greg Maddux but I’m unsure. In the early years of my fantasy baseball, in draft leagues, if you had first pick, you had Roger Clemens. It was that simple. Pick anyone else, absolutely anyone else, and people would be ready to send you to a padded room. And “we” had him. Not the Yankees, nor the As, nor the Blue Jays. *sigh*

57. Clemens has won exactly one game against the Red Sox in every season since he donned another uniform. Which tends to be less (but not tremendously so, given that Boston has generally won more than they lost since 1996) than pure chance would predict, given that he has stayed in the division throughout.

58. Clemens’ last win in a Boston uniform was his second 20-strikeout game, a 5-hit, no-walk shutout in Detroit on September 18, 1996. It was unfortunately, the epitome of the meaningless game, a late season affair in a half-empty ballpark between two teams long since effectively eliminated from even the wild-card race.

59. That same season, Clemens lost a 1-0 decision to Detroit. It was the only game in 1996 when the Red Sox were shut out – but for that one game, they would have been the first team in modern history to not be shut out even once all year. (By contrast, this year’s Tigers are on pace to be shut out a record 33 times.)

60. Clemens’ first win came in his second career start, on May 20, 1984 in a 5-4 win at Minnesota, despite surrendering 4 runs, all earned, in 7 innings. (Yeah I know, that wouldn’t be judged a poor start today, but things were different back in 1984.) For his line in all 299 victories, go here.

61. Sometime very soon, Clemens will likely notch his 4,000th career strikeout; he is 15 Ks short as of now. The Tigers, for what it’s worth, are 4th in the AL in strikeouts – Clemens’ own Yankees, along with Toronto and Texas, have whiffed more. One can easily imagine Clemens whiffing 15 of them. However, I think the likely bet for strikeout #4,000 is not his next start in Detroit, nor his likely next start after that, at Wrigley Field.
I’m looking at Friday the 13th, at Yankee Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals.

62. Interleague play. Abomination. (I say this both from the perspective of a Red Sox fan, since the Sox always do horribly against even bad NL teams, and from the perspective of a baseball fan in general.)

63. More proof that strikeouts by hitters are somewhat overrated – the Jays’ offense, the most productive in the league thusfar, also leads the AL in strikeouts. The Yankees are third in runs and fourth in Ks. Of the AL’s higher scoring teams thusfar (Toronto, Boston, Yankees, Texas, Seattle) only the Red Sox are in the bottom half in strikeouts.

64. Clemens’ ten most similar pitchers over his career include (see Baseball Reference) seven Hall of Fame inductees (Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Lefty Grove, Bob Gibson, Bob Feller, John Clarkson, and Fergie Jenkins) and two still-active pitchers who are all but certain future Hall inductees (Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson.) The tenth is Bert Blyleven, who probably should be in Cooperstown.

And with that, I’m done with thinking for now.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Jukebox From Hell II: Back Into Hell

Plans are underfoot for a newer, bigger, better, badder version of Jukebox From Hell, in which the search for the mythical Worst Song Ever will continue once more.

Since the whole process seemed to wear everyone - including me - down - I'm going to conduct Jukebox From Hell II in three different phases...

Phase I: We will attempt to add 256 songs to the total of 64 automatic qualifiers (last year's final 64) to produce a field of 320 total songs. Submissions can come from anywhere. The field of 320 will then be divided into 64 groups of 5 songs each. Most of those groups will consist of five songs in roughly the same genre of music, though, in order that the representation of the pool is not frozen at last year's results, there will be some genre mixing in some of the pools.

Phase II: In the fall - September and October - we will begin our elimination process. Voters will be asked to name the two worthiest candidates for Jukebox From Hell in each pool of five. From each group, two songs will move on, which will leave us with a field of 128.

Phase III: In the spring - March and April - we will have the final 128-song tournament, conducted by single elimination. The seedings will be based in part on both last year's performance, if applicable, and performance in the first phase. There will be some genre matching in the first round, but not to the degree there was last year.

Starting, well, now, I'll be taking a series of submissions from the Jukebox From Hell website.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Hungry Like The Wolf?

And now, another in the cotinuing series of Random Web Quizzes!

HASH(0x86ae4bc)


Which reminds me, I really do need to write another one....

Friday, May 23, 2003

Radio Ga-Ga

I feel a certain degree of guilt about the following confession:

I like radio edit versions of many pop songs better than the uncensored versions.

I know, heresy. Blasphemy. I must be a prude, a bluenose, a blowhard.

Why don’t I care for obscenity in pop music lyrics?

For me, it takes all the fun out of it.

Fitting art within boundaries can be an exercise in creativity as easily as it can be stifling.
Watching an artist walk a delicate tightrope of acceptability is much more interesting to me than someone doing something purely to outrage.

Why? When you’re outraged, you’re usually not thinking. You react at a lower level. If all you feel is shock, you’ll either miss the bigger picture or the fact that there is no bigger picture at all to see.

It was fun finding out what all those Steely Dan songs my parents used to listen to were really about as I reached maturity. (Especially since they didn’t generally know what they were about either.) There is something beautifully subversive about hearing a song about dirty old men who show porno movies to teenagers in a shopping mall, or a song about an inventive dope dealer on the lam from the law, in Muzak form.

On another level, the way Stephen Tyler (Aerosmith) let loose sexual innuendo in the form of metaphor was vicariously thrilling. Even a song that leaves a little less to the imagination, like Prince’s “Darling Nikki,” left at least some gray areas exist as you wonder just what the narrator and Nikki were doing the night.

Now all anyone has to do is come at and say it in the most explicit form possible. F--- this! F--- that! She’s a c--- b----h!

Dropping an F-bomb (or whatever) here or there can be an effective strategy to highlight a turn of phrase, to emphasize a point. But a series of them will deny them their proper, in much the same fashion that highlighting every word on a page is pointless. (Yes, I'm aware that there are Steely Dan, Aerosmith, and Prince songs with F-bombs in them.)

The first time I heard a 2 Live Crew song, it was somewhat amusing – there has always been a certain cachet in something that so infuriates one’s parents, or the government in general. But now? It’s insufferably boring to me.


Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Springtime For Hitler

There was a television miniseries about the early years of Adolf Hitler on recently. I didn’t watch any of it, usually having better things to do than watch prime time TV. But I understand that some CBS affiliates, particularly in Texas, refused to show it.

Some likely looked askance what must be seen at one level as a sensationalistic use of a controversial subject like Hitler to grab ratings. Some may have objected to the supposed “humanization” of Hitler. Others seem to have simply felt uncomfortable with even the very mention of a name now synonymous with hatred, genocide, and evil.

I was also reminded of Godwin’s Law, which is shorthand for an accepted rule of dialogue online that says two things:
1. The longer a discussion thread goes on, the more likely someone is going to mention Hitler or the Nazis.
2. Once this occurs, there will be no rational discussion on any topic in the thread.

My general experience with cyber conversations suggests to me Godwin’s Law generally holds true (though it gets more complicated in history-related discussions in which Nazis are a germane topic.)

The implication is that nothing good can come from discussing Hitler or Nazis.

There is at least one good reason for this line of thought – namely, that some people are far too quick to throw the term “Nazi” around. If repeated too often, the term begins to lose its meaning and its power. It would be a shame if “Nazism” joined “Fascism” and “McCarthyism” as terms that have lost some of their impact through excessive hyperbolic use. Calling someone a “Nazi” is usually a good way to damage one’s own credibility, and not without some reason.

In particular I fear that Americans have no idea what “fascism” was, or is. If they had this perspective, they might not be so quick to trade hard-won liberties and freedoms now taken for granted for a security that they are unlikely to receive in return. They are in one sense so used to hearing protestors and malcontents hurl “fascist” at opponents that they think it just means “one whose beliefs are abhorrent, according to the speaker.” Would the American public recognize fascistic governance, whether practiced or advocated, if they were to see it? I can’t be sure.

Nonetheless, I think the whole Godwin’s Law paradigm is detrimental to our understanding of the horror that was the Nazi regime.

When we place this entire incident of human history off limits - when we enclose Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust in a hermetically sealed box, which we open only periodically to gaze upon like some primitive talisman of evil - we risk losing sight of the big picture. Adolf Hitler and company were not demons from some other realm dropped from the sky. They were born and raised as human beings, primarily in the 20th century, in what was arguably the most “civilized” nation on earth at the time.

Some who romanticize the “noble savage” would argue the exact opposite – that the “civilization” of the Germans was exactly what enabled them to such heights of evil. Though I will concede that those whose technology is more limited cannot kill with the chilling efficiency of the Final Solution, atrocities aplenty have been committed in less “advanced” societies, past and present.

How do we know that the Holocaust was not an anomaly, an isolated incident? The Nazis may have perpetrated the most horrific genocide in human history, but it was not even the largest one; Stalin’s purges were likely even more deadly, and the deaths from the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution may also have outnumbered the Nazi dead. Nor was it the first mass persecution of the Jewish people – there have been several of those, dating back to the Middle Ages straight through into the last century. Since the Nazi regime fell in 1945, there were the killing fields of Cambodia, and several different genocidal bloodbaths in Africa.

Can it happen here? We’d certainly like to think it could never happen here. Among other things, we have multiple museums dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust, which happened an ocean away. Every year there is a new film or book that aims to shed more light on the evil that the Nazis and their allies perpetrated.

I suggest everyone read up on the Milgram Experiment, or the Stanford Prison Experiment.

I think when we attack efforts to “humanize” Hitler, we miss the lessons to be learned from the atrocities of the Third Reich. To humanize Hitler is not necessarily to rehabilitate him. To recognize that Hitler and the rest of the Nazi leadership were human beings is a recognition that a dark beast lurks inside much (perhaps all) of humanity. To understand that human beings are capable of great evil is the first step towards controlling a propensity to commit great acts of evil. The world does not work like melodrama where the villains consciously wear the black hat or some other insignia of evil, and cackle wickedly at the audience. History will teach us that the worst evils are usually perpetrated by those who believe themselves incapable of evil, and that the good they see themselves doing is so good or so potentially good that the ends can always justify the means.

Update: OK, so I'm looking around the web, and I find out that someone at National Review Online wrote this, which pretty much proves my point about how people search for villains cackling wickedly at the audience. Granted, it's about Muppets and not Nazis, but you're not going to find evil in this world is that's the way you look for it.

Not even Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot is going to face a television screen and declare "I AM THE VILLAIN! I AM EVIL! HA HA HA HA!!"

Not having travelled outside America much in my life, I wonder if this sort of mentality is a uniquely American defect that comes from watching too much badly made, lowest-common denominator entertainment product, or if it's simply a failure of humanity in general to be unable to think in terms less simplistic than these.

Monday, May 19, 2003

The Famous Final Scene

The dreaded Week Four of a contractor project.

Office politics and petty bitternesses set in as people scramble for position, jockey for favor, for plum assignments, for what passes for perks in this line of work, which are not bloody much I tell you.

Damn I need a real job. There will be office politics on a permanent basis, but at least the parameters would be more stable. As would the paycheck.

What's really sad is that I've gotten very good at imitating Milton from the now-classic film "Office Space." It frightens co-workers who've never seen the movie, but not as much as it frightens co-workers who have seen the movie.

I still did not receive my paycheck...I believe you have my stapler...Excuse me, senor? May I speak to you please? I asked for a mai tai, and they brought me a pina colada, and I said no salt, NO salt on the margarita, but it had salt on it, big grains of salt

It always makes 'em laugh.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Happy Blog-A-Versary!

The Answer Guy Online is celebrating it's first anniversary. Woo hoo! Now if I can just get it to have more than one post at a time....

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Fair Warning

Do not use your corporate/business/firm/work e-mail for personal messages. Do not use your corporate/business/firm/work e-mail for anything that you wouldn't want your prudish grandmother to see. Do not use your corporate/business/firm/work e-mail for anything that you wouldn't want to see on the front cover of the New York Times.

I cannot stress this enough, people. Your employers can and will find out about it, and that is a situation best described as simply "fraught."

And so will people like my co-workers and I.

My co-workers and I are analyzing corporate e-mail accounts for a merger going on. Today at work we gathered around and shared a few cheap laughs at one employee's expense. Said employee was sending a racy "love" letter, that talked all about how he was leaking semen in his pants just thinking about her. And then the woman responding with how much she wanted him inside her. At first, I thought the references to "him" and "her" indicated an orgy or something - turns out it was just the two of them referring to their genitalia in the third person. Which brought yet more laughs.

This morning, I read about an infamous chain mail that a woman accidentally sent from her work address to too many people. It was a review of her date with some rich guy. It exposed her as a totally shallow, golddigging bitch from hell. (Apparently, the Chicago word for a woman like this is "Trixie.") For instance, she was only "moderately impressed" with the man's boat - although apparently, he kisses well. And now she'll never get a date with anyone else in Chicago. And I think she's being disciplined for using the internet for personal reasons at work.

If you must conduct personal e-mailing at work, use a Yahoo! or Hotmail or something. But, for the love of whomever, don't use your corporate e-mail address.

Actually, now that I think about it, go ahead. I could use a laugh or two.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Mr. Bad Example

I found this really interesting discussion about the ethics - or lack thereof - of shoplifting. I highly recommend the comment thread.

Some of the comments were aimed at a "Jean Valjean"-type of ethical quandry about when stealing to support oneself or another who would otherwise starve or freeze to death. Aside from the Libertarian/Objectivist types, most people weren't about to begrudge the truly desparate from a little petty theft, though there was some argument about what constituted total destitution.

There are some who proposed that while it's wrong to steal from an individual or a small, independent business, they shed no tears for Walmart, CVS, Radio Shack, et al.

One obvious counterargument is that the shoplifter generates negative externalities which are often passed on beyond the "faceless" corporation, to shareholders (for sure, mostly well-off, but not always) and employees, and ultimately to consumers in the form of higher prices. However, I'm not quite convinced by this line of reasoning, since if extended it tends to lead to places we should want to tread. If one is held morally responsible (liability is a different matter) for everything that is done by someone you interact with to someone else for reasons connected to your action, there is a minefield of moral wrongs out there for even the most guarded soul.

This situation made me think about Kantian ethics for the first time in quite a while. If everyone shoplifted, obviously the aggregate effect would produce massive negative consequences, which is enough for me to support a generalized proposition that stealing, even from a rotten and exploitative entity such as Wal-Mart, is morally wrong.

Although I think that ethical system breaks down at some level. Must we stop everyone from having a car, since if everyone in the world drove to work, none of us could breathe? Must we persecute gays and lesbians because, well, if everyone decided not to be heterosexual, humanity would be doomed? Stretch the logic far enough and you could convince yourself that damn near anything you could do would be wrong, since society depends on different people doing different things; if everyone drove in the left lane of a highway, wouldn't that stop traffic? If everyone tried to get an MBA so they can become a corporate CEO, who would teach the children? Who would produce the food?

A pure religion-based or custom-based conception of ethical standards won't work in a modern world where people with differing belief systems and/or ancestral customs have to live side by side.

Legalistic conceptions of ethics have stepped in, in place of old customary standards, but they are inefficient and are often subject to manipulation by disparities in bargaining power. People have a vague understanding of this, and it is the lawyers that are generally blamed. In reality, in many situations the law is being asked to do things it is not well-equipped to do.

I generally like the idea of being able to use "universal maxims" to govern conduct - it seems more promising than "tradition," more stable than the shifting sands of public opinion. I don't want to throw it away easily, the way a moral relativist might.

At some point, I would love to have a discussion about the ethics of song file swapping and the like. It introduces a whole new set of issues into the mix.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Down On The Corner

It's not every day that the very street corner you live on is the subject of an editorial in one of the world's most prominent newspapers.

There are a few things in there I knew, but it's easy to miss the big picture when you live day to day in the middle of it all.

The corner honestly feels safer to me than that article would depict, and the article itself dealt primarily with things that happened far away from the corner - only one of the four murders was in the area, and one of them was out in Rockville. That one killing on the list that did happen here was almost two years ago.

And this is despite the open air drug market in the area, although that activity seems to have dissipated in recent months. I suppose some of this may be because I'm a long-time resident who has had few dealings of any kind, good or bad, with them.

This may sound cynical, but I'm somewhat surprised that the city would tolerate this much gang-related drug activity in a neighborhood so booming with expensive real estate, so packed after dark, with suburbanites who visit the neighborhood's many restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and, well, on the "good" side of 16th Street.

I wonder if Colbert King tipped the cops off to the content of the editorial, which would explain why there was a gigantic police van-type vehicle parked at 17th & Euclid Wednesday and Thursday evening.

I just feel extreme pity for children who grow up in this environment. In some instances, it's almost as if they don't really have much of a chance. The D.C. government is clearly not doing its job in this case, and isn't doing right by its citizens.

Update:It turns out that noted bloggerAndrew Sullivan happens tolive at the same street corner in Washington, DC as the Answer Guy. I never knew that before. I'm not sure what I would say to him if I ran into him, since if I have I wasn't aware of it. For obvious reasons, I'm not much of a fan of his. How a gay man could actually work in the employ of the far-right Washington Times, owned by the virulently anti-gay Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is beyond my comprehension.

I will give Sully a few props for this admission - maybe Bush's blatant attempt to politicize the military via last weeks' speech may not have been especially tasteful. He later complained that loyal Republicans were flooding his mail with angry invective. Considering the atmosphere that he and other conservatives have been trying to push on the nation - namely, that anyone who voiced any skepticism about the wisdom or motivations of administration policies, was unpatriotic, a Saddam and/or al-Qaida sympathizer, or , worst of all, French - I find it hard to let poor Andy off the hook so easily.

These are not nice people you've hopped into bed with, neighbor.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I Am The Gatekeeper...

The Department of Justice Building is not the most welcoming structure I've come across in Washington, to put it mildly. Its dated, pseudo-majestic Art Deco facade reminds me of nothing so much as the work of Ivo Shandor. I can almost hear the eagles on the silvery door whisper to passers by...

"Are you the Keymaster?"

The Pennsylvania Avenue side of the building is wrapped in an unsightly chain link fence topped with barbed wire. As if Justice herself were imprisoned behind barrier upon barrier.

Instead of just a sheet. Because our Attorney General can't bear to look at a classical statue of a woman with breasts.

Living in Washington grows depressing sometimes.

I remember when I first moved here. No one wanted to live here in a sense, but I felt more like it was a city I could connect with in a sense as an outsider.

Just as importantly, there were cheap places to live, to shop, and such, that are either gone or are disappearing before my eyes now. It seemed like Georgetown was Georgetown (tourist trap, inflated yuppie prices, stuck up attitude) and the rest of the city was more, well, real. But the city seems more like Georgetown writ large now.

I wonder if there were members of some European explorer parties or white settlers in the New World that felt a bit like this once.

"Dear Diary:
This land is rough around the edges, but I kinda like it that way. I can handle it. If too many outsiders come in here to change it, it might my life easier in a creature comfort sense, but in another sense it will ruin things."


My neighbors wonder sometimes why I will seldom call the cops to chase the people who hang out in front of my front steps away.

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