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Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Dead In The Water

Another late night at work.

I'm left to ponder the idea of my government running a dead pool.

Of course the plan's been scuttled.

I'm now picturing influential government officials (or simply insiders with information) plotting a coup in some insginificant country so they can make a killing. Literally. It's the stuff of a strange quasi-futuristic novel.

Or that Dirty Harry movie about a serial killer trying to win a dead pool.

While I can almost see the logic behind the idea, I think the signal/noise ratio would be too low for it be useful. Terrorists would likely do everything they would to confound the market with false alarms - in case you haven't noticed, these guys aren't dumb.

That, and the idea of the government doing doing this in the first place makes my stomach turn.

As for dead pools, I think I'll stick to one designed for television shows.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Watcher of the Skies

There's nothing quite like seeing a sniper on the rooftop of a nearby building.

Prevailing theory at work is that someone important in geopolitics is staying in or near the aforementioned building.

This is, of course, not anything I had to deal with back in Worcester, or in college, where the biggest danger to one's safety was drunk fraternity pledges doing something incredibly stupid as a part of an arcane (or pseudo-arcane) ritual.

Could you imagine any group of people in Washington playing "Water Assassin?" I couldn't imagine college without "Water Assassin."

Just a daily reminder that the stakes are higher here, so to speak.

Sometimes it feels better to be powerless, even though power is the currency by which things are measured in this town. I have a lot more freedom to move around unnoticed than many in this city, if for no other reason than the fact that no one really much cares where I go. It's the closest thing to privacy we can really hope for these days; if they're really watching all of us, their signal-noise ratio is so low as to make it pointless to really watch any of us.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Cracked Rear View

Ever realize how annoying you must have been as a child?

I was at this reasonably fancy restaurant that had a piano player - I was probably about seven years old at the time.

I think I "requested" (the quote marks are there for a reason, dear readers) the poor piano man play Christopher Cross' "Sailing" repeatedly. Yes, the same song that did quite well in the Inaugural "Jukebox From Hell."

He was probably playing quality songs, or at least better songs than "Sailing." And I had to keep pestering the man.

Funny thing...I don't recall if he ever actually played it.

Why this incident, and none of my infamous temper tantrums in public, sticks out in my mind is beyond my comprehension.

Friday, July 25, 2003

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

The editorial page of yesterday's Washington Post, whom one colleague of mine referred to as "The Daily Worker," had five syndicated columns.

Four of them were by conservatives. (To be specific, Robert Novak, George Will, William Kristol, and Robert Samuelson, though this particular Samuelson column happened to have little in the way of obvious political slant.) The lone "liberal" voice was of Richard Cohen, and of course even he has views in lockstep with neo-conservatives on affirmative action and on Israel - though neither of those were the subject of yesterday's column.

It's not that I can't stand to read the opposing point of view necessarily.


In the few cases I have bothered to come across the editoral pages of self-described "conservative" newspapers (Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Manchester Union-Leader), I have yet to see any column by anyone from the center, let alone the "left," in the editorial pages. And usually it's writers so strident that they'd make Will, Novak, and Charles Krauthammer blush.

It's as if they can't stand to hear any point of view they aren't immediately disposed to agree with.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

9 to 5 (I Wish)

Quick observations from my brief respites from an unusually dull work assignment...

* I had a craving for a Chicken Mozzarella sandwich at Au Bon Pain. So I went to the nearest one I knew of to my work site, about two blocks away. Turns out there were actually two Au Bon Pain locations that were closer. I'm not sure if that says more about me, Au Bon Pain, or the way that certain chains are just unbelievably saturated here. At this point, it might be physically impossible to throw a rock in the District of Columbia (or at least the parts west of the Anacostia River) without hitting a CVS.

* I picked up a flyer from the first Falun Gong demonstrator that I saw on the street, and held the little yellow piece of paper as an immunity talisman against all of the other people handing out Falun Gong flyers. (For those who don't know, Falun Gong is a Buddhist spiritual movement that centers around a series of exercises. For whatever reason, the Chinese government is very much against practicing Falun Gong; an official Chinese state television news broadcast I heard tried to portray it as a sort of "Scientology for Buddhists." Who's right? I trust neither masses of identically-clothed people in yellow T-shirts handing out flyers nor Chinese government propaganda.)

* The day I forget my umbrella is the day the sky opens up and I have to walk for 20 minutes in one of the most intense downpours I have ever seen. I think I would have been dryer if I had somehow fallen into the Potomac River instead. I considered streaking, but I think I'm going to save that for if/when the Red Sox win the World Series.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Sweet Caroline

I know I call myself the Answer Guy, but there is one thing that perplexes me to no end.

Where did the idea to shout "so good! so good! so good!" during the chorus of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" originate? Everytime the song is played in a public place, the crowd all adds the "so good" shouts. It's fun to do it (I do it too) but I wonder where that came from.

I wonder if it's some movie I've never seen.

Likewise, in many places the Billy Idol version (and only the Billy Idol version, not the original) of "Mony Mony" is played, the crowd adds "Get laid! Get f**ked!" to a certain part of the song. I have no idea where that comes from either.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Only Words

There are just certain words for which I have an irritational loathing.

"Deliverable." I can't explain it, I just know reading the very word annoys me.

I think maybe because I have this sneaking suspicion that it's a non-word that the MBAs of the world are trying pass off as a real word.

Kind of like "productize." I'm pretty sure that's not really a word.

While "proactive" and "paradigm" are real words, reading them on a page still makes me giggle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Cleaning Out The House

Random observations from an over-examined life....

1. My comments widget works but isn't working correctly; there are actually comments on most of my recent posts, even if it appears as if there are not. I have no idea why this is happening.

2. If our Monday night collective is the Boston Red Sox of pub trivia, tonight was one of those seasons when Butch Hobson was the manager and Scott Cooper the team's all-star representative. And of course, the guy I think we needed the most was a no-show.

3. Is there a more powerful force out there than a contract dispute?
* Roger Clemens got his slacker butt in gear after Dan Duquette made the claim that he was in the twilight of his career. Maybe if he didn't end up in pinstripes.... oh, yeah, I alreadt covered this, didn't I?
* Bruce Springsteen recorded "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" while fighting the people in the industry who were swindling him out of his money. He sings and plays like a man posessed, and never quite made another album like it. Remember, boys and girls...never sign an agreement on the hood of a car.

4. Still have yet to see Terminator 3. I may end up going to a theater to see it, but the precedents for sequels this far removed from the original are not good. "2010." "Godfather III." The "Star Wars" prequels. "The Evening Star." "The Two Jakes." (Those last two are entirely unasked-for sequels to "Terms of Endearment" and "Chinatown," respectively.)

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Look At Me, I Can Be...Center Field

It appears that the Bernie Williams CD ad is now gone from my blog. (Of course, this will probably bring it back - just like my previous mention of Randy What's-his-name from Texas.)

I am now trying to imagine what a CD of Bernie Williams (center fielder for the New York Yankees) music would sound like. I know Williams is from Puerto Rico, but that doesn't necessarily mean he does Latin music. Does he sing? Does he rap? Does he use Spanglish, does he stick to Spanish, or does he sing/rap in English? Does he play the drums or the guitar or the piano or any other instrument? Does he write any of the songs he performs?

I feel like I should find out these things...

However, I'm almost sure whatever it is, it probably sucks. Why?
• He's a pro athlete. Pop records by pro athletes who want to be pop stars are, amazingly, generally even worse than pop records by actors who want to be pop stars.
Remember Shaquille O'Neal? Apparently, Kobe Bryant recorded some hip hop that made Shaq sound like the second coming of Rakim.
• He's already in his 30s, and he's already a multimillionaire. There are a very small number of quality pop music releases made by people who fit into either of those groups, let alone into both of them.
• He's a Yankee. Do I need to explain this one?

UPDATE: According to the New York Times, he is a Latin jazz/salsa guitarist who has been playing since his youth, he generally writes his own songs, and his stuff has gotten rave reviews from Paul McCartney and Ruben Blades.

I have to admit that this is not what I had pictured in my mind when I think of millionaire dilettantes releasing CDs. I had that mental picture of Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) and Reed Rothschild (John C. Reilly) in a recording studio, coked out of their minds, attempting to sing in "Boogie Nights."

Or someone trying to cross-over like Jennifer Lopez, or Jennifer Love Hewitt. (I'd wonder if any good album has ever been made by anyone named "Jennifer." I remain skeptical.)

Or even more painfully, for a variety of reasons (Patriots fan here), "The Super Bowl Shuffle" and all its demon spawn.

This Bernie Williams project is probably more like pitcher Jack McDowell's "alt-rock" band V.I.E.W. Not something I'd ever actually buy or even choose to play voluntarily, but listenable enough so that rabid fans of his could buy it without embarassing themselves.

Fire! Fire! Fire Is Cool! YES!

Played NTN Playback last night - our squad finished 9th, not enough to make it worthwhile. We need someone that reads Spin or Billboard more often. I'm amazed there were eight bars that beat us - we got points for knowing lyrics to Cole Porter, Louis Armstrong, and Nirvana songs in a row.

Then, after a delicious Key Lime pie at Kramerbooks, we hit Visions cinema for the midnight "kick the keg" movie showing.

For $10, you get a movie, and unlimited use of the keg in the fron row until it's kicked. Giving the film the MST3K treatment (i.e. ridiculing the action or dialogue onscreen) is strongly encouraged. I discovered I have a talent for it, but so did all four of my cohorts - Edmund, Tricia, Justin, and Dave. (Dave badly needs a blog - the whole world should really be able to hear Dave talk the way his friends do.)

Usually, it's terrible movies that make the best candidate for this treatment. What's amazing is how well it worked with last night's selection - "The Terminator," which is far from a terrible movie.

The most obvious target was that it was very easy to ridicule how dated so many aspects of "Terminator" are - the special effects in final scenes after the Terminator loses its human skin, the clothing, and especially the music.

Skinny ties, ozone-killing hairstyles, club music that sounded like cut-rate versions of Loverboy and Pat Benatar, a pet iguana...the list went on and on.

Perhaps because I had a good buzz going by the film's ending, I forgot most of the good lines my colleagues threw out there. I remembered making the fairly obvious crack that serves as the title of this entry as the fuel truck Ah-nuld was driving exploded in a ball of flame and incinerated his flesh off.

And of course, "Terminator," while not exactly a horror film, follows some of the Fundamental Laws of Horror Films:

You get laid, you die. (Yes, Sarah Connor lives, but of the four people seen copulating on-screen, three of them are offed, two of them almost immediately after the deed.)

The black guy always dies.

Never go back to see if the villain is really dead.

Never trust the police. They are either evil, incompetent, or both.

Well worth the $10, even if the beer was Miller High Life.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Here In Your Bedroom

So, state sodomy laws failed “rational basis” review after all. The question of what is “rational basis” for a law is always a dicey one, and courts have usually given wide latitude to the states and to Congress. So why not this time?

• Although gays are not a protected class for Equal Protection purposes, the Court struck down Amendment 2 in Colorado (Romer v. Evans), because it frowns on legislation clearly designed to be prejudicial toward any class, whether a protected class or not.
• Generations of law reformers since the first Model Penal Code have advocated for the jettisoning of one category of criminal statutes in particular – those that the government has no real intention of ever trying to enforce, since they are so routinely violated in most people’s everyday lives that to enforce them would make large numbers of citizens unwitting criminals.
• These laws are used far less often in and of itself than they are as a form of blackmail against those presumed to have violated them. Thus, gay men and lesbians are deemed unqualified for a host of public jobs and unfit parents in child custody cases. The main purpose of these laws is to make gay men and lesbians presumptive criminals.

I was really surprised how sweeping the opinion was in its scope – how it was an unapologetic full frontal attack on Bowers v. Hardwick, even going so far as to say that not only is it wrong today, but that it was wrongly decided in the first place. (The Court seldom repudiates a past decision in this fashion, especially one less than 20 years old.) Not only did the four states that singled out same-sex acts for punishment lose, but the nine states that made no distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex acts lost as well. The court did not even address the Equal Protection issue but preferred to toss the statute out on broader grounds. And the majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee not exactly known for his liberal leanings.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissent that was three pages longer than the majority opinion. I guess I’m just so disappointed with the shrill nature of much of Justice Scalia’s dissent – much of it sounds as if written by a brainwashed college freshman for a Focus on the Family newsletter rather than a brilliant legal mind for the highest court of the land. Even Scalia’s acolyte Clarence Thomas decided to add his own blurb about how he thought the Texas law was “silly,” in an attempt to distance himself from the worst elements of his colleague’s main dissent.

I won’t deal with the parts about the Court signing onto “the homosexual agenda” and the “culture war,” other than to mention that the civil rights decisions of the Warren Court, without which we might still have Jim Crow segregation laws in many states, were arguably part of the “culture war” as well. I’m also going to ignore the lengthy rants about abortion, because, well, this case and the questions surrounding it have essentially nothing to do with abortion.

I will object to his conflation and his confusion of the state of the law with the supposed “moral opprobrium” towards homosexuality that exists in much of society. It is not necessary to say that individuals cannot direct “moral opprobrium” toward others to deny said individuals the power to imprison those other just because they are engaging in conduct those individuals happen to dislike.

I mostly want to talk about how disappointed I am that Justice Scalia echoed the foolish comments of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) about what the implications of the end of Bowers would be. More specifically, he conjures up a parade of horrors that would follow in the wake of a court finding that “rational basis” means something other than the mere prejudices of legislators. Polygamy. Fornication. Adultery. Bestiality. Public Indecency. Obscenity. Incest. States could no longer shield its citizens from exposure to these abominations. Soon, the military would be forced to accept gays against its will by the Courts. Then, states would be forced to recognize same-sex marriages.

Now I expect this sort of overheated nonsense from a far-right politician. They need something to put in their fundraising letters. I feel I have a right to expect more from respected legal scholars and jurists in this setting.

Will, I will agree 100% with Scalia on a small part of his rant about the parade of horrors he thinks are about to follow this decision. Laws against masturbation, in and of itself, appear to be headed for oblivion. I expect that most people would have the same reaction to this as many people did to the announcement of the end of “Murphy Brown;” but instead of “that’s still on the air?” it would be “there were still laws against that?”
If you think that this is some sort of tragedy, I would only half-jokingly suggest emigration to a Taliban-held area of Afghanistan. Except that they probably don’t have “Murphy Brown” reruns in those areas.

Alabama’s infamous prohibition of sexual devices might be in trouble too. I’m not sure what to say about that, other than to express my sympathy with the people of Alabama, other than whoever is responsible for making Alabama such a ripe target for ridicule by passing this sort of legislation. I will charitably assume that no one actually campaigned on the issue of outlawing the dildo; I would hope that political campaigns in Alabama turned on issues more important or at least less silly.

I will even go so far as to agree that Justice Kennedy’s broad opinion in Lawrence probably makes any blanket prohibition of fornication - any sexual activity between persons not married to each other – problematic at best. Those laws could potentially accomplish the political goal of the religious right to single out gays for persecution, being specially denied the right to marry their partners, since homosexuals are still not a protected class under federal law. (However, since they are a protected class under many state laws, those states may have trouble squaring such anti-fornication laws with equal protection.) Though more consistent and intellectually honest as a rationale for proscribing sexual conduct than that which Texas and the other states with sodomy laws have tended to employ, such laws seem to run afoul of the recognized right to privacy as articulated in the Court’s latest decision. And if even if they didn’t, to those who want to go down this road, well, I would hazard a guess that there is almost no support for their position in the political arena anyway.

As for me, I’m saying good riddance to such laws, to the extent that they still exist. Their deaths are more overdue than the end of “Arli$$.”

But beyond those relatively uncontroversial topics, there need be no flood of fallen “morality” laws. Perhaps in the narrow world of arch-conservatives who feel the need to ban things to validate their existence, a look into the rationality of mores is a taboo. But in a post-Enlightenment society, our worldview ought to give us a deeper understanding of the roots of those mores so that we might better suit them to our society.

With regards to adultery, a sexual act where one of more of the partners is married to someone else, you have another set of issues besides mere moral opprobrium. You have the breach of a marriage agreement, and therefore you have an aggrieved party. You have the breaking of a covenant, presumably voluntarily agreed to, between the adulterer and the aggrieved spouse, that implicates long-recognized state interests. In short, you have a lot of things the law recognizes well over and above the idea that you have activity of which some politicians disapprove. Now, in strictly practical terms, I don’t think there’s much political support for making infidelity a criminal matter on a regular basis, but if push came to shove, a state could probably still outlaw adultery, in the narrow sense, if it so chose.

(As an aside, it’s odd that Scalia would cite a 1999 state case from Maryland on this particular issue which referred to Bowers as a key reason to outlaw adultery. That state threw out its own sodomy law in 1998. Apparently Maryland sees no inconsistency.)

With polygamy, again, there is a whole new set of issues, similar to the ones outlined in the above paragraphs on adultery. The issue of polygamy is tangential at best to the issue of sexual privacy, since laws against polygamy are only about which marriage agreements a state will recognize between whom.

Prostitution has a sexual component, though it has an economic component as well. At a fundamental level, prostitution does not outlaw sex acts themselves, but rather the payment for the sex acts. Moral opprobrium is one reason, but not the only reason, that most jurisdictions in this country outlaw prostitution. There is, among other things, the tendency of prostitution and drug use, and prostitution and violence, to go hand in hand.
As a personal matter, I am unconvinced that laws against prostitution - which drive what could otherwise be a better monitored and regulated business into an underground, illegal hidden economy - do more good than harm. But as a legal and constitutional matter, it does not follow that the end of criminalized sodomy means legalized prostitution.

Public indecency laws, contrary to the Scalia dissent’s implications, need not go anywhere either. They govern conduct in public. Even married persons engaging in wholesome, monogamous, procreative lovemaking of which Justice Scalia or Sen. Santorum would approve would still be criminals if they were doing so in public.
Not empowering Texas politicians, cops and judges to incarcerate people for what they do in their bedroom has no relevance to conduct that occurs in the view of the general public.

The general preservation of “public morality” as defined by lawmakers is far from the only justification for criminalizing obscenity. Though I am somewhat uncomfortable with the notion of censoring something based on its “offensive” content, I believe that the most compelling reasons to ban obscene content are to protect children from exposure, and to protect subjects in some cases from exploitation. Obscenity bans can easily survive the rationality review inspired by this decision.

And with regard to pedophilia and bestiality…those arguments are just attention-grabbing grasps at intellectual straws. A minor child is deemed to be incapable of giving consent to sexual activity of any kind. The same is true of animals – animals cannot be said to be capable of offering meaningful consent. I find it especially saddening that, in the 21st Century, a Supreme Court justice would stoop to conflating what two consenting adults did with each other with molesting an animal, and doing so in such an intellectually dishonest fashion.

The incest issue produced slightly more intellectually interesting implications, but there are still ample grounds to proscribe incest. As a practical matter, most incest is abuse of a minor, usually by an adult but sometimes by another minor. Most types of family relationships (particularly parent-child, even if both are adults) can be said to cast serious doubt on the consensual nature of even ostensibly consensual acts of incest. The prevention of genetically defective offspring seems a decent and sustainable justification for prohibiting at least procreative incestuous sexual acts.

Likewise, incestuous marriages can still be proscribed, because the marriage right is a different right governed by separate principles, for roughly the same reasons that polygamous marriages can be proscribed.

(I am puzzled by one thing, however, from a purely intellectual standpoint…is there a good reason, and remaining grounds, to punish, say, two adult brothers or sisters for messing around with each other? As far as I know, this sort of thing essentially never happens, but if there’s a reason for bothering to outlaw this conduct, I haven’t found it. Nor, truth be told, have I ever found much reason to care.)

As for the military, well, the military has always received a good deal of latitude to set their own policies – the federal judiciary generally takes great pains to leave them alone. Members of the military are often denied the right to activities allowed to civilians. (That said, the ban on gays in the military is more than a little silly as a policy; a conservative can hardly claim that the British and Israeli militaries, among others, are world laughingstocks because they allow gays in their ranks.)

This leaves the issue of same-sex marriage. Now, naturally, I am in favor of them, so this next paragraph is tough to write.

However, as I have been saying, marriage implicates the government in a way that private sexual conduct does not or should not. When the state sanctions your marriage covenant, it becomes a public act. The public – and by extension, the government - has an interest in a marriage over and above any interests they may have in the parties to the covenant themselves. This fact has several public policy implications that serve as the foundation for divorce law, among other things. The government – state and federal - has the ability to define the parameters for conduct that implicates them in a way they do not or should not for purely private conduct.

Indeed, at some level, if you’re not passing laws that by definition make every gay man and woman a criminal, solely because they cannot marry each other, you’ve taken away one fairly strong argument for same-sex marriage.

In short, no, the end of the world is not coming. If Denmark, the Netherlands, and Canada haven’t been pelted with burning sulfur yet, neither will the United States.

The only losers in this decision are a band of bluenosed, busybodying bullies who have had their way on this issue for far too long. And even they didn’t lose very much – they’ll just sulk over a group of archaic laws that no one bothers to enforce for a bit and forget about it shortly thereafter. Everyone else is a winner.

Remember the following the next time you vote.
1. Sen. Santorum thinks that he and other politicians should be able to write a list of approved and unapproved sexual practices for all citizens. This includes straight people as well as gay people – well, actually gays are supposed to be 100% celibate. If Sen. Santorum finds the idea of any act you should happen to perform repugnant, he thinks you should go to jail. Sen. Santorum has stated that he believes there should be no right to privacy, whether in bed or not.

2. Justice Scalia has said that he agrees with Sen. Santorum. Two other justices more or less agree with Scalia.

3. Most of the people who feel the same way as Scalia and Santorum do on this issue and related issues constitute the biggest base of support for President Bush.

4. President Bush, who is taking great pains to dodge this issue as long as he can, has said that he sees Justice Scalia as a model for future Supreme Court appointments. Also, his top law enforcement official, Attorney General John Ashcroft, can make Santorum and Scalia look like moderates by comparison.

5. If President Bush is allowed to nominate and confirm two or three justices who agree with Scalia, their view will be the law of the land. In practical terms, we are already seeing this being played out to an extent in lower federal courts.

6. So your real-world odds (even if you happen to be gay) of going to jail because you do something in bed that Sen. Santorum (or his equivalents in your state legislature) disapproves would still be quite low. Still, do you want your rights defined by people like these? What other aspects of your private life are they going to decide are their business? Besides, if the judiciary cannot restrain people like Santorum and Ashcroft, what will? How long will it be before they decide that something you or a friend or a loved one do or say in private is immoral, or unpatriotic and worthy of punishment? That such politicians now need more of a reason than “Because I said so” should be a comforting thought.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I'm sure no one likes reading diary entries much, but I need to fill some space....

* Well, after a quick trip up north to see the family, I find myself back in DC, having been called back by the promise of a quick paycheck. Both good and bad.

* Got one heck of a suntan on Webster Lake on Sunday, and at Hampton Beach on Tuesday.

* Flew home on Southwest from Manchester to Baltimore. I love how you can fly for not too much dough on that route even with only two hours advance purchase. (Of course, this meant I got the third degree at the airport.)

Friday, July 04, 2003

Rumble In The Bronx

So, here comes four games in Yankee Stadium for the Olde Towne Team…

I’m not fond of melodramatic pronouncements, but this may be their season on the line.

The Yankees this season look more beatable than they have in quite some time, having gone through a May slump unmatched by them since the 2000 stretch drive fade that mattered not since the Red Sox were too far back by then. Many of their veterans have been either injured or ineffective, and their newer players are not as good as advertised.
However, they’ve got a 4-2 head-to-head advantage on the Sox, and they come in to this series hot.

The Sox have baseball’s strongest run-scoring machine, something I anticipated going into the season. Millar, Mueller, and Walker have been finds; Varitek and Nixon have been solid; Nomar and Manny are playing like the superstars they are. There is not a weak spot in the entire lineup. They have, for the moment, a healthy Pedro Martinez. The bullpen, however, has been a colossal disaster, and Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield, and Casey Fossum have struggled. Lowe and Wakefield have shown signs of putting it together, and maybe Byung-Hyun Kim may prove the answer at closer.

Interleague play, which has killed the BoSox the past few seasons, wasn’t a big deal this year, as Boston went 10-7 (with one game to be made up.) They’ve generally done pretty well beating up on the AL’s many weak teams and have largely avoided long slumps.

But they’ve blown a big opportunity to keep their momentum going by handing the Devil Rays their first series victory in nearly two months. After just coming one of their easier stretches of the year, they are still four games back and have yet to play Oakland or Seattle. And they’ve sucked

If they get swept, it means they will be 8 games out of first, probably looking up at Oakland in the Wild Card race, and possibly looking up at Toronto in their own division.
Just as bad, they will be convinced that they just can’t beat the Yankees. If they couldn’t beat them in May when the Yanks were down, and couldn’t even take one game in July… I wouldn’t say their season was quite over, but it would leave them literally behind the 8 ball, and an Oakland or Toronto surge could doom them to another early vacation. Their relatively soft September schedule may not matter.

A 3-1 loss would leave them 6 back, heading into a July that sees their longest road trip of the year and an August where they spend a lot of time playing Seattle, Oakland, and the Yankees. They may hold on for the WC lead for the time being depending on what Oakland and Toronto do. The upcoming trip to Toronto would be key.

What I am hoping for is a 2-2 split that would leave things more or less as they are. Being down four games is not where you want to be, but it’s one Yankee slump away from the lead. Everyone in the sports press would consider this a moral victory for the Sox. It would keep the pressure on the Blue Jays and Athletics. Their better odds are for the Sunday and Monday games, but I’d prefer the Sox find a way to win at least one of the first two games.

My pipe dream is for a 3-1 win, though I don’t think it’s likely. I hold out little hope for Saturday, for reasons explained below. But the Sox could beat David Wells with Derek Lowe today, clobber Andy Pettite on Sunday (John Burkett has actually pitched well of late) and beat Mike Mussina with Pedro on Monday. In Mussina’s last outing, he was roughed up by the Orioles. Lowe has been bad away from Fenway, but he has looked a little better recently than early in the season. If this were to happen, it would leave the Red Sox only 2 games down while almost assuring the Sox keep the WC lead going into the intermission. I wouldn't put money on this, but, well, did anyone see the Anaheim Angels coming last year?

A 4-0 sweep? I'd rather bet on Rich Garces winning the Tour de France. It's not going to happen, not with the Sox starting Ramiro Mendoza on Saturday against Judas Clemens. Grady must be smoking some sort of psychotropic substance to think this idea is a good one. Even if you’re going to try using Mendoza in the rotation, could you think of a worse game to pick? Didn’t you just get done playing Tampa and Detroit? Wouldn’t those have been better games with which to ease Ramiro into the rotation, a role where he has never succeeded in his career, rather than a game against the Yankees the day before a John Burkett start, which means a short outing more or less insures the Sox will be using the dregs of their bullpen a lot this series?

Either way, things are about to get interesting.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Art And Lies

I haven't had a good discussion here at The Answer Guy Online in a while.

I found something over at Altercation (scroll down) that interested me.

He postulates that the three great bands of the last 20 years (U2, REM, and Radiohead) are all politically minded and have a worldview that skews decidedly left-of-center. He then extrapolates slightly to include The Clash (more explicitly political than even any of the above) and Talking Heads (not as overt, but various band members have made it clear where they stand on political issues, and it did sometimes show up in the music.)

There must be something to this. As a bleeding heart, I'd like to think it's somehow intrinsic.
But there might be an extrinsic explanation...

1. Is it that music critics lean to the left? Although there is no band on that list that has not sold millions of records, to the extent that most "critical darling"-type bands have political leanings, they are to the left. And this is true across the board, across genres, and whether they can sell out arenas like U2 or are happy playing in coffeehouses.

2. Is it that people who intensely love music tend in this direction? Do you think George W. Bush ever wanted to play the saxophone? Can you imagine Tom DeLay or George Will rocking out?

3. Is the media controlled by a guild of liberals? While the music press leans to the left, it would be odd if all the mega-corporations that control the recording, broadcasting, and promotion industries were mandating the distribution of left-wing propaganda. The nation's largest owner of radio stations - also one of the nation's biggest concert promoters - is in fact run by conservatives and visibly promotes conservative values.

My own pet hypothesis concerning art is that it is about communicating what the powers that be in a society may not want to hear. What you cannot say directly, you may be able to express on the canvas, the song, the screen, or in the text of a novel. If what you have to say is the same thing that the king wants said, well, it's much easier to say it directly. If what you have to say is something else, it may be necessary to use one's creativity to communicate it in a different fashion, lest you get your head chopped off.

It takes more creativity and more spirit to criticize or ridicule the king, in all the king's various modern forms, than it does to praise or exalt him.

I suppose I should all that there is something about right-wing artists and their art that I find offensive in such a way that I know I probably shouldn't. I can read read right-of-center commentary well enough, but I find, for instance, jingoistic country music utterly nauseating. In attempt to explain why I felt so strongly about this, I developed the above pet hypothesis.

But I could be totally off base....

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Blame Canada

Happy Birthday to our neighbors to the north.

Interesting article in the Washington Post today about how Canada is finding a national identity by defining itself in opposition to many (perceived) cultural and political shifts to the right in much of America.

With every year, the idea of seeking political asylum there sounds ever more appealing. Especially if global warming really starts to take hold.

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