The Answer Guy Online

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Yankees In Last Place

As of this moment, the New York Yankees are in sole posession of last place.

I had to note that while it lasted.

Monday, March 29, 2004

You Say You'll Change The Constitution...

I'm still sort of proud of my home, although it's tempered a bit. Hard to figure what to make of the latest approved amendment language. It's something of a credit to the state legislature that nothing that would leave even the chance of a total denial of any recognition of same-sex couples can't get through; in most states, debates over this issue end up by and large degenerating into lopsided gay-bashing sessions.

It was heartening to see how many of the state's elected officials weren't cowed by the fear or ignorance of some of their constituents or colleagues, even if not every vote went the progressives' way. It was great to see my old neighborhood's legislators, Sen. Chandler and Rep. Spillane, do the right thing.

The Amendment would come up for a referendum vote in 2006, assuming it is able to survive a second vote in the Legislature that year.

The wrinkle here, however, is that the Attorney General Reilly doesn't want to do Governor Romney's bidding as far as asking for a stay of the Supreme Judicial Court's order, which said that towns could start issuing same-sex couples marriage licenses on May 17, 2004. It's not immediately clear what the implications are, but many legal analysts suggest that the SJC, with or without Reilly spearheading the challenge, would be highly unlikely to stay their ruling for over two years.

Incidentally, May 17, 2004, is the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Incredibly, I missed this until it was pointed out to me. It was a nice piece of symbolism. Those asking for a referendum on the issue might be asked to consider what might have happened had bans on segregation or interracial marriage been put on the ballot.

I have to admit that my position has changed a little in the past few months. At first, I was willing to accept almost any change from the past gladly. Civil unions would provide only a small fraction of the legal benefits accrued to marriage, and would carry no clout outside the borders of Massachusetts, but it's better than nothing.

But I looked at the photos from San Francisco and thought to myself how I could ask people who had been together for 20, 30, 40 years or more, to be patient and pragmatic and lay down just a little bit longer just so someone my age or younger might someday take for granted what they were fighting like hell for.

Or how anyone with a heart could demand that their state force people who had been married to get divorced, supposedly to "strengthen the institution of marriage."

I can promise people in Massachusetts that same-sex marriage will not end the world. It will not cause straight people to decide not to get married. Maybe enough voters, given two years, will overcome their squeamishness and do the right thing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Spanish Bombs

Suppose there was a terrorist attack in your country, and your government tried to point the finger at what evidence suggests is the wrong culprit, so that they themselves and/or their policy prescriptions might look more attractive.

Would you re-elect them?

Suppose your government dragged your country into a war under the idea that it would make your country safer from terrorist or other threats, but that most relevant experts believe that it would have just the opposite effect. Suppose your government greatly exaggerated the threat posed by that nation in order to help justify the invasion. Suppose further that they significantly downplayed the costs of said invasion.

Would you re-elect them?

Could you be talked into re-electing them by the very idea that the terrorists wouldn't want you to do so, that it would be "appeasement?" Even if it's not at all clear what they want you to do, or why? Can the terrorists be trusted to tell the truth about their motives, intentions, or potential tactics?

Or would you recognize that basing your decision about whether or not to vote out your government on what terrorists want or don't want, either way, is letting the terrorists win?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Bracket Update #3

After the first weekend of March Madness, I'm in a tie for 3rd out of 11 participants (trailing the leader by one third-round result, effectively) but with the highest upside - I'm the only guy with his Final Four (Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Duke, and Connecticut) intact. Ironically, the current leader only ranks 9th in most potential points if everything goes her way from now on, since she's already lost both her finalists (Kentucky and Maryland.)

The OSU-Pitt game looms especially large as the group is split down the middle on that game.

The main value of upsets is to people who are trailing in the potential points sweepstakes - for instance, Vanderbilt beating UConn would greatly help the people who have N.C. State in that Elite Eight spot, as it would drag the UConn people down towards their level. Having fallen for the idea of the big Carolina-Duke potential matchup that's now not going to happen, I myself am pulling for Xavier (A-10 shout out!) to help take out Texas, while kicking myself for not having faith in them to upset Mississippi State.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Bracket Update #2

OK, so I'm 19-5 through the first 24. What's frustrating that someone who picked straight chalk (i.e. all favorites) currently leads at 22-2. (However, this person had one of his losses - Michigan State - going a long way, so it's not like I'm in danger of falling out of contention.)

It's not that I'm picking lots of upsets that aren't happening based on either hype or sentimental attachment, either. Of the two "big" (i.e. a double-digit seed winning) upsets that have occurred thusfar, I did call Manhattan over Florida, failed to call Nevada over Michigan State, and picked one major upset (Western Mich over Vanderbilt) that failed to materialize. I'm 0-for-3 on the 8-9 games that have happened thusfar.

If I ever run a pool again, I'm assigning bonus points for upsets; I failed to do this year since I was afraid it would be a nightmare to administer. I thought that going with a 2-3-4-5-8-10 system rather than a 1-2-4-8-16-32 or 1-2-3-4-5-6 system would make people less conservative with their picks (not to mention making ties more unlikely) but it has not done so.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Bracket Update #1

11 person office pool. After two games, no one's 2-for-2. Of the 3 people (including yours truly) who called Manhattan, we all went for Charlotte over Texas Tech.

And Maryland's in trouble too. (No one bit on UTEP, but some people have the Terps going a long way, so I'd be better off if the Miners pulled off the upset.)

Prediction: This game - win or lose - will cause riots in College Park.

Do The Evolution

In 1925, the powers that be in Rhea County, Tennessee, tried to prevent the teaching of evolution in their schools, since evolution wasn't happening in their county (or anywhere else.)

Now comes this effort, which apparently is an attempt to ban gays from living in Rhea County.

Maybe they had a point in 1925. Maybe no evolution occurs in Rhea County, Tenneessee.

Fire In The Hole

There's a Tunnel fire on Metro's Red Line this morning, so I had to walk to work ; the Taft Bridge (Connecticut Ave. over Rock Creek) was filled with walking commuters and cars, buses, and taxicabs trying desparately to get in or out of downtown and getting nowhere.

I saw the commotion, and the first thing I thought to myself was "terrorist attack." However, it appears that an electrical fire is to blame for all the delays and closures.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Ides of March

Wow, it's been a long time since I last blogged. I've been working, spending more time maintaining Jukebox From Hell and following Baseball Primer for sports and Daily Kos for politics.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Martha, My Dear

Not a good thing for Martha Stewart.

I'd be more impressed if people who actually bilked investors, employees, and the general public out of real money got sent to prison. At the risk of sounding like a Congressman, $51K (times a few) is chump change, not only to someone like Stewart, but compared to the (mostly male, by the way) Enron, Tyco, and Worldcom bandits.

Martha Stewart is a symbol of a lot of things - impressario of style; a life, for working and especially professional women, to simultaneously aspire to and to envy; a class of connected insiders who can put its thumbs on the scales of the market while the ordinary investor gets left holding the bag; a conniving matriarch straight out of a primetime soap opera; the ultimate arrogant celebrity who thought she was above the law.

Consequently, I detect more than a little symbolism in her prosecution, trial, and conviction. I can't say Stewart didn't get what she deserved, but I have to wonder what would have happened with these exact facts if Stewart were a more typical executive, a relatively low-profile man.

On another note, you know what would be a better place to punish Martha Stewart than a few years in a minimum-security prison? Force her to live on $15,000 or so a year in a rural area for the rest of her life.

Legal experts are arguing over whether the defense strategy - short defense, not calling Stewart or her co-defendant, broker Peter Bacanovic, letting the case go to trial in the first place - made any sense. I don't know everything the defense team did by any means, and I have to say that after O.J., Ray Lewis, Robert Durst (the Texas billionaire who claimed to have killed his neighbor in self-defense but then chopped up his body and disposed of it), and others, I was convinced that the rich and famous could get away with pretty much anything.

I have to co-workers who are convinced that this whole episode is bad news for the Bush administration, that this jury is symbolic of a larger public that is tired of having one set of rules for the wealthy and powerful, and another, harsher set for everyone else. I remain unconvinced of this, since this jury is New Yorkers, and dislike for Martha Stewart just cuts across class, cultural, and political barriers.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

King Of Wishful Thinking

They just put up a bunch of new paper signs declaring my block a "Drug Free Zone." In addition to the yellow-on-black metallic signs on lamposts that declare the block a "Drug Free Zone." (Most likely because there's an elementary school on my block.)

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Penguin Lust

Dan Savage has it right.

And maybe you missed the recent story in the New York Times about two gay male penguins at the Bronx Zoo who adopted and cared for a penguin chick. So it would seem that the big difference between penguins and humans isn't that we practice homosexuality and penguins don't, but that straight penguins aren't threatened by the existence of gay penguins. There is no penguin equivalent of the Traditional Values Coalition, no penguin Gary Bauer or Lou Sheldon, no penguin president trying to prevent so-and-so from loving each other and adopting chicks, and no straight penguins talking about sewing gay penguins' assholes shut.

Yeah, sometimes it'd be cooler to be a penguin. Even though I couldn't fly. At least not without the assistance of a Yeti. (Personal Best: 588)

(Thanx for the heads up, Edmund.)

Seriously, when walking to work the other morning, with a beautiful day, the sun gently beating down on my back, I thought about how fortunate I was to one of the only organisms on earth capable of appreciating the beauty of nature - since I wasn't require to spend all my energies and brain power figuring out how to eat food or avoid becoming food for some other creature.

I suppose having to deal with Lou Sheldon and Gary Bauer and George W. Bush is a small price to pay. The upside includes chocolate ice cream and the ability to play goofy computer games.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Radio Days

Via Calpundit, I found this news article claiming to have the inside scoop on the beginnings of the long-planned liberal talk radio network, in New York. (This being the New York Post take it with a grain of salt.)

Honestly, I don't think this is going to work. There are reasons talk radio caters to the right wing, far out of proportion to their numbers:

1. Most people these days listen to the radio mostly in their cars, much of it during morning and evening commute time. People in outer edge suburban areas tend to have the longest commutes and therefore tend to be the most prolific radio listeners, and are far more likely to be conservative than liberal. Liberals/progressives are more likely to live closer to their workplaces, and therefore have shorter commutes or take public transit or walk/bike to work.

2. Taken as a whole, conservatives - particularly cultural conservatives - skew older, skew rural, and skew less educated, which happens to match the profile of radio listeners in general. Conservatives are less net-savvy than either liberals or libertarians, the latter of whom are particularly over-represented online. Most research indicates that the more time one spends online, the less time one spends listening to the radio (or watching television, which in part explains the similar though less dramatic skew to the right of cable news channels.)

3. For all the conservative griping about the "liberal media," the media can only as liberal as the corporations who own them will allow them to be. (I've already ranted plenty of times about Clear Channel, so I'll spare you that.) If you're a media conglomerate, I imgaine it's harder to stomach paying people who like to criticize the power of large corporate entities.

4. NPR has in a sense occupied some of the potential "liberal talk radio" market. Though they strain and strive for balance in content and guests a way that most commerical talk radio doesn't bother to, the audience for NPR's public affairs programming tends to skew to the left. A lot of us, if we even bother with radio, would rather discover new (or old, or different) music to listen to, or straight news without an explicit point of view attached.
NPR, and, to a lesser extent, Pacifica stations (despite the latter's strident left-wing nature) tend to serve these functions.

5. I just get the general impression that liberals and progressives aren't as interested in hearing political ranting and raving and griping on the radio as those on the right. Talk radio is a sewer of poorly informed hosts serving as a forum for even more poorly informed callers spouting ignorance; even in those rare occassions I've come across a caller on C-SPAN or a commentator on Pacifica spewing nonsense from a "left wing" point of view, I have not enjoyed it much and can't imagine I'd want to listen to three hours of it any more than I'd want a three-hour dose of Limbaugh or Hannity. Similarly, sports talk radio irritates the hell out of me, because there's always some pea-brain who:
• Wants to fire the coach, the manager, the general manager, the atheltic director, the mascot, whomever;
• Proposed the most ridiculous trades ("Let's send..uh...Adrian Brown to the Mariners for Freddy Garcia..yeah...") or acqusitions ("Let's just sign everybody.")
• Is blinded an irrational love or hate for his favorite or least favorite player or team ("Yeah, there's no f**kin' way you can leave the Terps out of the dance.")

6. Give me music any day over someone's babbling, regardless of point of view or subject. I bet more liberals than conservatives agree with me.

Incidentally, I hope I'm wrong, and the left can use radio to help get some of its memes out into the larger national discussion the way that right-wing talk radio has done. But I am not exactly optimistic.

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