The Answer Guy Online

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

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sorrow

It appears that my maternal grandmother is about to pass away. I will be heading to New England in hopes that I will get to see her one last time. As such, this space my go blank for a few days.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Game Diary (Part II)
George Washington 62, Dayton 59

I can't believe I just saw that. Carl Elliott made a prayer of a shot with the clock running out. He let it fly underhanded from just inside halfcourt, and it found its way into the basket, and probably into ESPN's highlight reels. I figure it's at least a little karmic playback for the desparation heaves that have cost GW two games at home, one to UMass, the other to Xavier.

Dayton came out shooting from the perimeter and were making shots, but fortunately the Colonials were able to counter as Mike Hall and T.J. Thompson heated up. Karl Hobbs' halfcourt defense was holding up reasonably well, not giving up easy shots, agressive but not reckless.

Then they died what they always seem to do for a 8-minute stretch - they died. They were getting beat on the boards, couldn't stop throwing the ball away, trying to force what wasn't there. The defensive pressure was still on, but making perimeter. If a team that doesn't much in terms of perimeter threats can't get penetration, they can't afford not to make the most of every shot they make. They still got some key turnover, but they couldn't finish and sometimes couldn't even start. The efforts to force the ball into Mensah-Bonsu did help get the Colonials into the double bonus, but didn't lead to points and frequently led to turnovers.

People will talk about Elliott's miracle shot, but the real heroes of the game are Mike Hall, whose key three pointer helped kill the Dayton momentum that threatened to leave the Colonials in the dust at one point, and T.J. Thompson, whose 4-for-4 in free throws the final two trips up the floor knotted the score at 59 going into the final minute of the game.

They've now beaten Temple and Dayton on the road, neither of which is earth shattering, but sets them up for a situation where beating St. Joseph's at home and Rhode Island on the road would give them 20-regular season wins. 20 wins, including Michigan State (who are definitely going to the Big Dance,) Maryland (who are most likely going as well), and [if it were to happen] St. Joe's might at least put the Colonials in the conversation if things break right. A loss to Dayton would have been the final nail in that coffin.

The easier thing to do would be to get the first round bye in the A-10 tournament and win three games, claiming the auto bid and ending all doubt. It'd be easier than trying to explain the weak RPI and even weaker Strength of Schedule to the selection committee.

Game Diary
George Washington 35, Dayton 26

George Washington knows that a loss here means losing whatever "bubble" pretensions they may have; the mid-week disastrous 19-point loss to Xavier might have already done the trick. The Atlantic 10, having a major down year, looks like a one-bid conference this year; for the moment GW has a marginal edge on St. Joe's for a claim to be the second team (after whoever wins the tournament, of course) but that's mostly based on way-back wins over Michigan State and Maryland. St. Joe's has had a tougher schedule but doesn't have a win anywhere near that caliber. Next week's game between the two at the Smith Center looms large; the loser is absolutely going to need to run the table at the A-10 tourney in Cincinnati.

Absolutely crucial game here. They have more to play for than Dayton does - they're looking at the NIT if they do anything short of winning the automatic bid, win or lose here today. Winner here likely gets the #1 seed in the A-10 West, though.

Colonials looking good thusfar, apart from a stretch where they couldn't hold onto the ball in the opening minutes; a real opportunity to put Dayton on the ropes was let by the boards. They had a cold stretch from the field but it didn't end up hurting that much since the defense was so good - a top shelf performance against a team with more than its share of scoring threats. Eventually the Flyers started hitting some shots and getting to the free throw line and GW had no cushion. Fortunately, Dayton didn't really get hot from the field the entire half, so the Colonials' rebounding edge meant that they never trailed. And GW did what they do best, even when they're not playing well, focring the other team to hurry and turn the bull over. Their advtantage in forward play also helped lead to getting to the free-throw line more often, which has been crucial to their lead.

T.J. Thompson is hitting his shots and not forcing things too much; Pops Mensah-Bonsu has been pretty quite for most of the half. Maureece Rice, despite his breaking of Wilt Chamberlain's Philly his scoring record had made his defense off the beach his calling card.

This Flyers squad is young and deep, though not as talented as the Colonials. If they end up pulling out the win at home, it would probably come courtesy of the 3-point shot since they don't really match up well against GW in the paint.

Hopefully the Colonials don't come out cold.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Standing On The Edge

Apparently the White House is having trouble finding a Democrat willing to give him political cover on his Social Security evisceration privatization personal choice...um..."reform" plan.

Now it's early in the game, with plenty of time for what seems like an inevitable letdown (sort of like the pre-2004 Red Sox leading by three runs in the middle innings in a crucial game at Yankee Stadium,) but I am starting to wonder... Could it be that the Democrats have finally learned something? That Lucy's not going to let you kick the football, ever?

Actually, I'm plenty skeptical. But the white flag hasn't come up yet.

Ask Jean Carnahan, Max Cleland, or Tom Daschle what the benefits of playing ball with the other side are. Or Mary Landrieu, who - miracle of miracles - actually held on to her Senate seat. Willingness to compromise is a sign of weakness to these people.

Hey, Senate Democrats, I'll let you in on something in case you haven't quite figured it out yet: They're going demonize you and call you "obstructionist" no matter what you do or don't do. So you might as well live up to the label. If they get angrier and dial up their rhetoric, you'll know that whatever it is you're doing is working.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Diagnosis: Attempted [Television] Murder

I'm not faring too well in the Allison LaPlaca Open thusfar. A grand total of zero points. A grand letdown after going 8 for 10 last year; it would have been 9 if Fox had followed through on its original decision to can "Tru Calling" last season.

"Desparate Housewives" is one of the most talked-about shows on network TV, and "Crossing Jordan" appears to be going nowhere. "Commando Nanny" never aired, which under the current rules means I'm out of luck there, though I guess it's better, from the standpoint of human civilization, that a show with Hulk Hogan as a nanny never saw the light of day. (And I missed out on "Studio 7" because I thought it was going to suffer the same fate.)

I'll still be collecting the gimme points for the final laps around the track of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "NYPD Blue" and "Father of the Pride" is on hiatus and is probably going to be put to sleep. I am still holding out hope that the aforementioned "Tru Calling" and "North Shore" will go away soon. And "8 Simple Rules," which lost its main reason to exist last season.

I'm kicking myself for missing out on "Dr. Vegas." If it weren't for his role on "West Wing," they could change the name of this competition to "Rob Lowe Open." Also "Method and Red," which stopped shooting around the time entries were due.

There's always next year.

The Boy In The Bubble (Part II)

The surprise is not that President Bush cancelled a "Town Hall" meeting with "ordinary Germans from all walks of life," but that anyone would bother scheduling such a thing in the first place.

He only appears in front of handpicked audiences in his own country, where fully half the country seems to adore him for some reason. Who on earth got the notion that he could handle an unpredictable audience in a country where he is almost universally despised?

I wonder if whoever it was could have also been the person who thought that "Baby Genuises" deserved a sequel - with a theatrical release no less.

Meanwhile, those of us on these shores can continue to wear this T-shirt for a while longer.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Answer League Baseball

Dear Readers,
For any baseball fans who read this, I've started a Rotisserie Fantasy Baseball League - just for you. All you need is a Yahoo! account (they're free - sign up here if you currently lack one) to get started.

Go to Join Custom League, and enter in the following information:
League ID = 16698
Password = beltway

Should be fun. I have an "ambitious" plan for this league; if I can find the time, I'd like to chronicle what happens in our league on either this very blog or over at The Annex - maybe track how each team is doing, who's leading what categories and how much they've moved lately and such. It's something I had kicking around in the back of my head for a while but never had the time. Of course, between work, my other various hobbies, and my plans to run another iteration of Jukebox From Hell, who knows how much time I'd have to devote to this endeavor?

I had this up for nearly two days at The Annex but got no takers from there. I guess fewer people read that thing than I realized, not that I really have much of a right to be surprised.

Bad Vibrations

Following the 2004 elections, the word came from On High (well, from the movers and shakers in the national media anyway) that those of us in Blue America had to stop making fun of states like Alabama. Some of us are at least making an effort - I hadn't written anything specifically ridiculing Alabama since then.

But they're not exactly making it easy on us.

Here in the year 2005, it's illegal to buy or sell sex toys in the State of Alabama. More specifically, the relvant law targets, among other things, "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs [bought or sold] for any thing of pecuniary value."

Since this is most likely a bunch of old men who passed this law, and a bunch of old men will be charged with interpreting this law, it's highly unlikely that this law is ever going to be construed as outlawing the sale of Viagra, though that medicine and similar ones are "designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs" as well. Hell, if we're going to talk about things that are "marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs," how about banning that body spray with the commericals that show attractive women humping toasters?

Anyway, most of us thought this was not only more than a little silly but also unconstitutional following the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. A federal District Court judge in Alabama threw out the ban on sex toys, citing the rights to sexual privacy (well above and beyond the sexual acts between two consenting adult men that was the instant case) articulated in Lawrence. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed, ruling for the state.

But then, contrary to what myself and many others predicted in the wake of Lawrence the Supreme Court decided they weren't going to touch this case with a 10-inch Jeff Stryker replica. The Court spoke not a word in its denial of certiorari.

So the long and short of it is that Alabama gets to keep its ban on sex toys.

Maybe the ladies of Alabama, if they don't want to become criminals by virtue of purchasing one of these contraband devices, can use an assault weapon as a masturbatory aid. Who knows - it may be just right to help you really reach that 'ol G-spot, thereby keeping that barrel nice and lubricated. As John Lennon once advised us, Happiness Is A Warm Gun.

Although be warned that you'd better make sure that the gun's not loaded, lest you wind up either here or else here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Every Vow You Break

Thanks to the good people at the White House Office of Sexual Purity teenage girls can now take a new chastity vow, the Iron Hymen Pledge. And boys can affirm their commitment to abstinence by loudly and proudly proclaiming that "Sex Is For Fags."

The sad thing is that these joke sites (courtesy of the good at people at whitehouse.org) aren't really all that much more ridiculous than some of the things that the abstinence-only crowd is attempting, with the help of the federal government, to foist on our nation's schools.

A number of those curricula not only made controversial assertions about abortion and contraception, as one would expect, but also got generally acknowledged biological facts - such as how HIV is transmitted and even something as basic as the number of chromosomes in cells - but my personal favorite passage from the above report:
An exercise from the curriculum Choosing the Best, for example, describes a knight who saves a princess from a dragon. The princess advises the knight on how to kill the dragon using a noose and poison, the knight follows her advice, and is successful. However, he feels "ashamed" and decides to marry a village girl instead of the princess, but only after making sure, "she knew nothing about nooses or poisons."

It's not more than a hop, skip, and a jump from there to "Sex is for fags."

Increasing no-questions-asked subsidies to miscellaneous fundamentalist front groups been a part of the conservative program for some time now. One of the biggest beneficiaries of such largesse (in addition to Bush's efforts to use the federal government to "promote marriage") is everyone's convicted felon, self-proclaimed Messiah Rev. Moon.

Iron Hymen even sounds like something he'd come up with. Either that, or one of those disturbing X-rated anime videos with the demon tentacle rape scenes.

Monday, February 21, 2005

What If We Give It Away?

Interesting discussion at Crooked Timber regarding the heavily anticipated Supreme Court case of Kelo v. New London, which puts the small Connecticut city and its redevelopment authority against a group of residents hoping to stop the taking of their property by eminent domain for a private development project. The project is slated to include a hotel, a conference center, and office space and is located along the Thames River near Fort Trumbull State Park, and, more importantly, a recently built Pfizer research facility.

The Connecticut Supreme Court found for the City of New London, accepting their arguments that the "public benefits of creating new jobs, increasing tax and other revenues and contributing to urban revitalization," constituted a public use sufficient to satisfy the requirement for taking by eminent domain found in the Connecticut and U.S. Constitutions. The Connecticut homeowners appealed to the Supreme Court, who accepted certiorari.

In their decision, the 4-3 majority on the Connecticut Supreme Court relied on a landmark 1981 ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court, Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit. Many first-year Property classes in law school covered the Poletown case as part of their discussion of the issue of public benefits.

Though I was somewhat groggy the morning that case was discussed in class, I recall there being a vigorous disagreement regarding the case's reasoning. I believed then, and still believe now, that that case was wrongly decided. The current Michigan Supreme Court apparently agrees with me, since they've reversed their Poletown holding.

If you were asleep that day, or never went to law school, the city fathers of Detroit were going to seize the properties of the residents of a neighborhood known as Poletown for the construction of a auto factory, to be owned by General Motors. The city argued that the factory constituted a sufficient public use, as it would bring much-needed jobs to the area, and the Michigan Supreme Court agreed. And there went Poletown.

What is a public use of land of the sort contemplated by eminent domain law? Public roads, utility lines, public educational facilities, public water supply protection - those are good examples of legitimate public benefit. A city taking land from landowners and giving to a corporation for the purposes of building a facility owned by the corporation is an abuse of the power of eminent domain. This Connecticut case isn't quite that extreme - the redevelopment authority will retain ownership of the land but will be charging only nominal rents for use of the property - but it's still largely the same principle at work.

But can economic revitalization ever be a sufficient justification for eminent domain? The Supreme Court has acknowledged an exception for "blighted" property, which generally has almost no economic value, which certainly seems more than reasonable. Establishing chains of ownership can be an issue in some cases; in other cases, the use (or lack thereof) of one's property may detrimentally affect the values of adjacent property generally.

If the developers here want the land - presumably valuable due to its proximity to a waterway and to other corporate facilities - why is it that they need the city to force the owners to sell it to them? Would the price at which the property owners - rather than the city - were willing to sell the developers the land not be a fairer price? The unfortunate fact is that far too often local governments are captured by developer interests to use the power of government to do their bidding.

Our current President is only one such major beneficiary, back in his days as owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. Much of the land used to build the Ballpark at Arlington was taken by eminent domain. Among the results was a lawsuit by one prominent landowner, TV tycoon Curtis Mathes, in which it was held that he was underpaid by millions of dollars.

Like a lot of well-connected businessmen, Bush and his contributors love to talk about "market solutions" and the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith when it comes to people with modest means, but they're all about the "public good" when they can use their clout to manipulate governments to funnel some cash into their pockets.

Not only is this sort of "socialism for the rich" immoral, it also tends not to work very well for anyone - other than the immediate beneficiaries of the largesse in question, of course.

The tax revenues anticipated by many of these large projects often fail to materialize, either because the owners are given a sweetheart tax deal on top of the underlying land deal, the typcially rosy projections regarding the economic impact of the project prove overly optimistic, or both. I am reminded of the many public financing deals for sports stadia and arenas, which usually bring a short-term construction boom, a number of low-wage service jobs, and not much of anything else. Or my old hometown of Worcester, which destroyed much of its downtown with a monstrosity of an enclosed mall that has stubbornly resisted no fewer than three wholescale "revitalization" efforts, and hurt its tax base with subsequent efforts that replaced taxpaying small businesses with larger megaprojects that took advantage of the generous tax deals that the city offered. Or, indeed, of what happened to Poletown itself in the years following the decision:
GM fell 3,500 short of its promise to create 6,500 new jobs. In the end, more people were displaced [approx. 4,200] than employed and the sweetheart deal cost taxpayers more than $300 million in federal, state, and local subsidies for GM.

Most cities are much better off cultivating their own neighborhoods and making them livable as best they can; of course, that's not nearly as "exciting" as attempting to create a tourist trap, or a shopping mecca. It also won't get you crucial campaign contributions from deep-pocketed developers or as much positive press from media outlets, both of which are probably more important reasons why cities and other localities are always pushing macro-development initiatives.

Here one can find a differing opinion regarding the issues in this case. Newman's words can give a progressive pause. He points out - correctly - that the judiciary is not well-equipped to evaluate the merits of economic development programs.

And even he fails to mention the possbility that the eminent domain baby may end up being heaved out the window along with the eminent domain bathwater. Many of the supporters of the homeowners here harbor the hope that a judiciary stacked with Federalist Society alumni would use a reversal here to justify a wholesale sea change in community rights. They would love to see a ruling that would give birth to a massive expansion of "property rights" theory that would call into question a host of zoning ordinances, environmental protection measures, and regulation of hazardous externality-generating activities.

In that context, it's tempting to root for the City of New London. But I'm not going to; I reject the notion that our only alternatives are the rules of law laid down in the Poletown decision and a return to the Wild West.

I believe that there's a clear enough line that can be drawn here as to what is enough of a public benefit. If whatever public benefit the government anticipates is only ancillary to the private one, eminent domain isn't an appropriate tool. It's by no means a bright-line of rule of the sort that law students crave to put in their blue books, but it's better than handing municipalities the (and the developers who often lean heavily on them) absolute power to condemn land.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Gonzo Gone

Hunter S. Thompson has apparently taken his own life. Known for a style of fictionalized jouralism he called "gonzo," he left behind an impressive catalog of works, the most famous of which is "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas." Rest in peace.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Pitchers And Catchers Report

Is there a sweeter set of four words to hear during the winter season than that one?

There's a lot catching up to do if you haven't been paying much attention during the offseason.

Soon the Red Sox will be defending their World Series title. Wow, that's a sentence I never thought I would have occassion to type.

No, this is not a Jeff Gannon update. Apparently, Gannon is only a pitcher

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Gannon Fodder

I know many of my readers have been waiting for me to weigh in on the emerging saga of esrtwhile journalist "Jeff Gannon" (a.k.a J.D. Guckert.)

Many conservatives find themselves wondering where the story is.

Well, I think back to Jack Shafer's harsh and yet right on target description of Bush administration as the "propganda presidency," which actually came out well before the revelation of Jeff Gannon/J.D. Guckert as a secretly-placed shill for the Administration from the White House press.

There are two real questions about this whole Gannon business that I would like to see answered:

1. Why did the administration plant a shill in the White House press corps?
There are plenty of media outlets out there with reporters who'd have been more than happy to serve as designated lapdogs for Bush and company. Among the better known press outlets alone you have Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and United Press International, which is part of Sun Myung Moon's media empire. Why bother with having some close associate invent a news agency and have that agency install a fake journalist in the Press Corps?

The odd thing is that they well might have gotten away with it, had they picked a better plant. Subtlety was not this guy's strong suit; he asked questions like ""How are you going to work with people [Democrats] who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?" It seems that people just starting asking questions, and people at Daily Kos started digging.

Back when he was Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer was even hesitant to call on him, probably in part (though he doesn't say it) out fear that Gannon was tipping his hand with his over-the-top obsequiousness.

2. Why did they plant *this* shill, of all people, in the White House press corps?
There are tight restrictions on who gets White House press credentials, and for some good reasons, mostly relating to national security. Under an assumed name, which isn't supposed to be permitted (even to the extent that married female journalists use their maiden names,) Gannon gets a series of daily passes to White House press briefings, as an employee of an outfit calling itself Talon News Services, affiliated with the highly partisan web site GOPUSA. Press secretary Scott McClellan goes to "Gannon" because he knows that "Gannon" will refrain from the tough questioning that Washington journalists are supposed to be known for no matter who's in the White House.

It turns out that Gannon/Guckert was attending press briefings before any entity called Talon News ever existed. So even the flimsy Talon News fig leaf proves inadequate. At that time he had one online column and nothing else to his name. His only other qualification stemmed from attending a two-day seminar on journalism run by an outfit called the Leadership Institute.

There are hundreds of people out there blogging who would have jumped at the chance to be Bush's shill, many of whom would not only have been better at it than Gannon was but would also have lacked the...um...unsavory connections that have helped push this scandal into the mainstream.

It would certainly help any President to have a compliant media he knew would ask him just the questions he wanted to answer. But you have to wonder if that alone was worth the risk incurred by having someone like Gannon/Guckert carry water for you in this manner.

There have two lines of speculation regarding the answer to Question #2 above.

One line revolves around Gannon's alleged male prostitution business and who inside the White House inner circle may have patronized it that might have precipitated strings being pulled on his behalf. Did he want to be a real journalist so badly that he pushed his way in (how's that for a double entendre?) to the corridors of power the only way he knew how? That someone with these kinds of ties could bypass the usual regulations placed on press passes may not say anything particularly flattering about how seriously this White House treats national security beyond its use as a pet campaign issue with which to hammer people less enthusiastic about neo-conservative adventurism.

The other - and far more interesting - line pertains to the leaking of the identity of CIA senior operative Valerie Plame to the media, disclosed to the public via an infamous column by Robert Novak. Did Gannon/Guckert play any role in this leak - was he being used as a patsy to do the administration's dirty work? His alleged connections to gay prostitution would make it easy for him to be discredited in the media - or blackmailed.

This Washington Post piece references Gannon interviewing Joe Wilson for an article referenced here. The money quote follows:
"I will tell you that the information did not come from inside the administration," Gannon told Talon News. "For something that is supposed to be classified, it seems that this document is easily accessible."

So what exactly, if anything, did he know? He claims on Free Republic that he was subpoenaed for testimony in the CIA leak probe but later denied that in a subsequent interview with Editor and Publisher magazine.

Gannon's interview with Joe Wilson, however, happened in October 2003, which is after a Wall Street Journal article describing the memorandum that was leaked. Though it's not difficult to imagine Gannon talking out of his hindquarters, claiming to have an inside connection he didn't really have to impress someone only to be exposed when his bluff got called...where exactly did he get this information? If he was only getting his information about the memo from the Journal why didn't he disclose that at some point and spare everyone the trouble?

But you don't have to go into the realm of conspiracy theories to find something seriously wrong with this. Even if both of the above lines is a total dead end...you've still got another example disturbing behavior from this administration. Maureen Dowd nails it here:

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

The only thing I'd caution is not to let the more lurid aspects (Ooooh...gay porn! escorts! prostitution!) of this story obscure what's really important here - the WH planted an unqualified phony journalist as a shill in the press corps. And, furthermore, this shill may have played a role in the outing of Valerie Plame by GOP political operatives. The "gay prostitution" aspect of this is interesting only in that there's a certain irony in one being a shill for a President that's derived so much mileage from hostility to gays, and it's a big part of the "story" because it's the sort of salacious detail that sensationalist media types think can sell papers.

This is an administration that has paid journalists to shill for its policy initiatives, has invented fake news shows to hawk administration talking points, and is now planting fake journalists to cover them. That's the real bottom line.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Self-Esteem

I found myself checking out a thought-provoking (if somewhat shallow and a little cliched) article in USA Today about what happens to children who've been raised by parents, teachers, and a society that placed a premium on building self-esteem hit the workplace.

I grew up just as the "self-esteem" movement was starting to pick up steam, so I missed out on some the more laughable aspects of the movement's impact on education and child-rearing. We still played dodgeball in my grade school. We kept score. Not everyone got gold stars, and teachers wrote in red ink. I learned the hard way on many occassions that there was a whole range of things I just wasn't good at doing, tasks that some of my peers could do much better than I could ever hope to - as well as some things that I was in fact among the best at achieving. And in between there were things I could work on, areas in which I could improve myself. I think I'm better off for having learned those things when the stakes were much lower than they would be now.

Now I'm far too young to be an old fart, like Dana Carvey's Grumpy Old Man from old "Weekend Update" sketches on "Saturday Night Live." ("We didn't have "self-esteem building!" We thought we were lower than dirt! And we LIKED IT!" [pounds table].) Anyone who knows my political orientation knows that I want nothing to do with the creation of a "winner-take-all" society. But to the extent that the "real world" is (and most likely always will be) all about cutthroat competition for everything, I'd rather have children equipped to prepare themselves for this reality than have them in a mental bubble, blissfully unaware of what awaits them when it comes time to join the work force. I think it would facilitiate better decision making and might prepare them for stress at a younger age.

Found nowhere in this article is the political overtones of the movement. It most definitely originated with people in the educational and psychology fields, nearly all of whom would describe themselves as "liberal" or "progressive." But I don't think it's ultimately served liberal or progressive goals. I think a group of people who've developed a sense of entitlement of the sort that many people raised on self-esteem building see themselves as on a path to making the big score, hitting the jackpot, as being "winners." If one sees oneself as a "winner" or even a "future winner" they find the idea of a "winner-take-all" society more attractive. If one sees the tradeoff of a faster path to the top in exchange for less of a social safety net for those who stumble, then they'd gladly take that deal. (How dare anyone should suggest to one of these young achievers that they could ever fail to acheive greatness!)

Taken in the aggregate, however, these kinds of aspirations for cross over the fine line between mere optimism and, well, delusion. Not everyone is going to be a "winner," (how one chooses to define that term) and by no means everyone who ends up a "loser" got that way because of any personal shortcomings. There isn't, and can't be, a perfect meritocracy, particularly if a society sees any value in permitting people to pass on wealth (with which comes an undeniable head start) to their descendants.

It's not that I would prefer anyone to think of themselves as a "loser" by any means. I just wish more people, in a society where so many purport to subscribe to the Christian tradition (and the tradition of modern Western civilzation as we know it), would look at one less fortunate and think to themslves "There, but for the Grace of God, go I." If your self-esteem's been artifically inflated to unreasonable levels, I'd be willing to bet that that's generally not going to happen.

I don't think this sort of thing fosters the development of a progressive mentality, or even a particularly healthy attitude towards one's society.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Spreading The Disease


Recriminations fester regarding the car-bomb assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
People inside and outside Lebanon are blaming Syria, which exercises what could be euphemistically called a "hands-on role" in Lebanon's government. Hariri had a falling out with the Syrians that precipitated his ouster.

Not that I'm a fan of Syria, or of their military presence in Lebanon, by any stretch of the imagination, but it would be an incredibly stupid move by Bashir al-Assad if his government had any role in the assassination. Many in the United States are just itching for a casus belli to invade Syria, which was unlikely to surface absent further provocation. It's even hard to see what they gain from further occupation of Lebanon, given that Israel has left its self-designated "security zone" in south Lebanon.

It's at least as likely that the bombing is the act of someone trying to embarrass the Syrians, or alternately, of someone trying to destabilize the region in general. Unfortunately, as always seems to be the case in the Middle East, it only takes a few people who want conflict for there to be conflict. So the list of suspects is pretty long.

For its part, the United States has recalled its Ambassador to Damascus in the wake of the assassination, though they are not (at least in public) blaming Syria for the terrorist attack. There's not necessarily anything wrong with what the State Department is saying, especially considering that France, the European Union, and the United Nations have also been turning up the heat on Syria to jusitfy its continued presence in Lebanon. However, the lack of a "let's figure out who's behind this" implies they could be sharpening the daggers for Syria.

Yikes.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Trilogy of Terror

A group of us held our Second Annual Razzies Film Festival Saturday night, at which we watched the three most nominated films this year:
"Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2," "White Chicks," and "Catwoman."

Which one was the worst? Hard to tell. "Catwoman" was the one that took itself seriously. It was also the longest of the three films and had the most stretches where most of us were lost for words. It did manage to exploit the considerable sex appeal of Halle Berry in a leather cat suit, but it was otherwise a tedious affair. The less attention one paid to the plot, involving an evil cosmetics company about to mass market a product is knows is toxic, the better.

"Superbabies" had the flimsiest reason to exist, being an unasked-for sequel to the enormous critical and commerical bomb "Baby Geniuses." They couldn't even get original "stars" Christopher Lloyd and Kathleen Turner and when it came to casting a hero, they settled on...Scott Baio. It had dubbing that made the dubbing found in most kung-fu flicks look masterful, had even more ridiculous "Matrix"-ripoff combat sequences than "Catwoman" did, and included a lot of crotch kicks for what I think was supposed to be a kiddie movie. It also featured Jon Voight and a painfully awful eeeevil German accent. The only good thing I can say about it is that it was, including credits, only 88 minutes long. Director Bob Clark started out with "A Christmas Story," a kid movie that hits all the right notes. And then he made this.

And "White Chicks" caused the most discomfort of the trio with its litany of ethnic, sexual, and bodily "humor." I'm not sure what movie they were supposed to be satirizing but it's not one any human being would watch. On the other hand, it did include some amusing cinematic allusions, even throwing one scene that served as a homage to both "Showgirls" and "Carrie." We hated every last character in this movie, but I'd have to say if I had to (at knifepoint) watch one of these movies again, it'd probably be this one.

My vote for the worst of the three: With reluctance, "Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2." I can't think of any possible audience for this movie.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Long Way To Go

As nutty as Virginia's lawmakers have demonstrated themselves to be in the last week, both with legislation they've actually passed and with legislation that they merely proposed (including the "no visible underwear" bill that brought them unwanted international attention that's now been scuttled) they've thankfully got a long way to go before they come anywhere near Saudi Arabia.

Not only do Saudi women have to cover themselves from head to toe, they, thanks to the latest dictate from the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (the Saudi volunteer religious police) aren't allowed to receive roses or any other red flowers for Valentine's Day. Bummer. (Of course it does provide guys with a built in excuse for failing to give their sweethearts a Valentine's Day gift if they were expecting one.)

As far as I know, nobody in Virginia has proposed anything like this.

On the other hand, I'm sure if someone gave Dick Black or Bob Marshall the idea to found an organization called "The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice," they might well do it.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Rock The Boat

It's now official; Howard Dean is your new Democratic National Committee Chairman.

Risky? Perhaps. But the general Democratic strategy of playing it safe, of not taking risks, has not exactly turned out well. The Beltway Democrats who took the lead role in derailing Dean's Presidential candidacy have had multiple chances to show an increasingly skpetical rank and file that they had a winning formula. Absent the idiosyncratic political gifts and skills of a Bill Clinton, they don't seem to have one.

Lots of Republicans will tell you that a prominent role for Howard Dean is exactly what they want. I don't really believe them, and in any case, I take any advice from people who are rooting for me to fail with a grain, nay, an entire shaker of salt.

The downside to rocking the boat is gone. There is no majority to protect, no sinecures of power to defend. It's not entirely a dissimilar place to where the Republicans found themsleves following the defeat of Bush the Elder in 1992, and I don't recall them rolling over and playing dead when that happened.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Death of a Playwright

Arthur Miller, one of America's best-loved and most treasured writers for the stage and screen, has died at the age of 89. Still writing plays almost to the very end, his work virtually defined an age of American playwrighting.

He's best known for "Death of a Salesman," and its iconic American Everyman, Willy Loman, and for his marriage to starlet Marilyn Monroe. Other famous plays include "The Crucible," a commentary on 1950s McCarthyism disguised as a period piece on the Salem witch trials; "All My Sons," a morality tale about the World War II homefront; and "The Misfits," which became then-wife Monroe's final completed film.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I Get Around

For some reason I've been thinking about whether it's culturally significant that The Shops at Georgetown Park has a store that only sells the Segway.

I walked by it twice today and the store really stands out for its abundance of open space - makes sense if you're going to have the room to test-"drive" the thing.

All The Pain Money Can Buy

Two words that should probably never appear in the same sentence. "Naked" and "Karaoke."

Although if you're into punishing those around you, and happen to be in the general vicinity of Berlin, Connecticut, well, why assault just one of the senses when you can assault two, at the same time?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Over The Hump

Winter's about half over.

We've had a bit of a warmup here in Washington the last few days, and the nights aren't quite so long. Pretty soon there will be leaves back on the trees and the songs of birds. Before long they may be daylight before I leave.

Meanwhile, back in New England they're looking at another 20" snow storm, just like the one I ran into back during my Escape The Inauguration Long Weekend. I guess if you've got a sports-crazy town that's got three titles in the space of one calendar year, you just have to take the good with the bad.

Final Exit

I've done a lot of document review in my day, and that means sifting through some inane, laughably bad Powerpoint presentations.

So naturally I find this Onion article about a "suicide Powerpoint presentation" to be one of the funniest things I've ever had the privilege of reading.

The only thing wrong with the presentation is that it did not contain any reference to "value added," and did not recognize any potential "synergies."

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Virginia Is For Commandos

Sometimes things just get so bad in the political world that you have to laugh at it all, no matter how perturbed you get. The latest thing the Virginia legislature is spending my tax dollars on...a bill making it illegal to be showing underwear on the outside of one's body.
Glad to see they're taking care of the issues that really matter in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I was under no illusion that I was moving to a bastion of progressive thought when I moved my residence here in July; this is, after all, the state that both Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell call home. But I seem to have wandered into a state which, apart from a farily medicore Democatic lame-duck governor, is run by a group of people who seem to look with wistful envy at the likes of the Taliban.

They never met a back door attempt to outlaw abortion clinics they didn't like, but that's neither breaking news nor even especially noteworthy. If they stopped there, they'd be just another run of the mill, right-of-center state legislative body.

But they didn't. The Virginia Lesiglature's overpowering urges to control every aspect of women's bodies is by no means limited to abortion.

Take contraception for instance. Two Democrats attempted to modify Virginia laws to separate the legality of contraception from that of abortion, only to withdraw their bill after Republicans blurred the distinction sufficently as to render the proposal moot. Does this mean that some types of contraception no one thinks of as abortion could become illegal if Roe v. Wade is reversed? Absolutely, and at least a large number of Virginia legislators like it that way; most (but not all) of them are shy about saying that on the record. For his part, however, Del. Richard Black (R-Loudoun) refers to birth control pills as "baby pesticides."

The legislature would like to make the act of providing a statutory rape victim with birth control a felony. Last year, they passed a bill that would prevent Virginia colleges and universities from distributing "morning after pills" to rape victims.

Or take Del. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) and his thankfully withdrawn bill that would have made it a crime for a woman to fail to report a miscarriage to local authorities within 12 hours. Women's groups inside and outside Virginia raised enough of a stink to embarass Cosgrove into pulling the plug on this efforts.

The Virginia Legislature doesn't meet in Richmond for an especially long session - they have a limited amount of time to attend to the running of their state. (I don't blame them for this, mind you; I've spent some time in Richmond, and it definitely looks better in the rearview mirror.) The horniest teenage boy up late at night trying to make out the naked bodies while watching signal-bleeded porn isn't as obsessed with sex and sexuality as most of the Virginia House of Delegates appears to be.

None of these topics, however lurid, can compete with the favorite subject of most Virginia legislators - gays. Specifically, how to declare that they are second-class citizens in Virginia as many different ways and as many times as their limited legislative session time and energy allow.

We're going to have special "Traditional Marriage" license plates, for folks who want to declare loudly that gays and lesbians don't deserve equal rights; apparently obnoxious bumper stickers aren't enough for some of these people. My view? Anyone with with one these had better have a dowry ready for their daughter's arranged marriage. And they better not even think about ever getting a divorce.

There's another bill pending that would prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children. It just passed the lower house by what would be a veto-proof margin, and is well on its way to becoming law. And another one aimed at prohibiting the establishment of "Gay/Straight Alliances" in Virginia high schools.

But these are mere distractions to the main issue of declaring over and over again that gay couples are strangers in the eyes of the law in every respect. The state passed a law that banned gay marriage in 1997, and passed another, more draconian bill last year. This one not only re-bans gay marriage and precludes recognition as civil unions, but also could invalidate any contracts or agreements between or among private parties of the sort gay couples would enter into themselves to protect their interests regarding hospital visitation, property inheritance, and other things most of us take for granted. This year, they decided that even that wasn't enough and decided they wanted a gay-excluding definition of marriage in the Virginia Constitution.

And it's not even enough to stop them from marrying. Even after the Supreme Court told them they couldn't make gay sex a felony, Virginia is still holding onto the hope that they can put filthy homoseuxals in jail for a long time somehow. Maybe a couple new Bush-appointed judges will help them do just that; hopefully, by then, I'll be in a state that knows which century we're living in.

Note that Richard Black and partner-in-crime Bob Marhsall (R-Prince William) - point man on a lot of this anti-gay stuff - don't exactly represent the back country; their constituents are found in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. So, yeah, this isn't just people downstate who are perfectly happy to take my tax dollars and spend them on who-knows-what in some one-stoplight hole-in-the-wall while telling me to go to hell over and over again. No, this is people with whom I could conceivably share Metro trains, people who drive by and through Arlington on Route 50 or Route 66 on the way to and from work voting for these wanna-be Ayatollahs.

I guess I should have remember that this is the state that gave us the best named Supreme Court case in legal history. That would be Loving v. Virginia, in which Virginia vigorously defended their fair Commonwealth against the abomination that is interracial marriage. I just thought things had changed a little more.

This is the state where I live. For now at least. Maryland (and, for that matter, the District) looks better every day.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Patriot Games (Part II)

For three quarters and change, the Philadelphia Eagles proved that they were perfectly capable of winning the Super Bowl. They may yet have a Super Bowl win in them. But not this year.

For us in New England, it's another year, another title. What was a long drought has given way to abundance of nourishing rain. This is without a doubt the first dynasty of the new century; neither those who hate these Patriots nor those who would refuse them that label in hopes that would stay hungry for still more glory can deny it. All that is left to do during the long offseason is speculate how they match up against the other great multiple title winners in NFL history. Though other teams may have indeed been more dominant in their day, but this bunch, considering that we are in the age of the salary cap, might reflect the most impressive achievement in team construction the league has ever seen.

And with each season it's getting harder to relate to outsiders just how weird all of this is.

Growing up in Massachusetts in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I can recall that the Patriots didn't hold the lockstep loyalty of the populace the way the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins did. They were an afterthought, clearly the low man on the totem pole. During the Parcells years, they passed the Bruins, who had by then fallen on hard times, and then passed the Celtics, whose legendary 1980s run was but a distant memory. Somewhere during the run-up to their first ever Super Bowl victory, they eclipsed the Celtics in the hearts and minds of Bostonians. (It didn't help that both teams left revered, if flawed, Boston Garden for the dull, if comfortable, confines of the Fleet Center.) They can't match the mixture of tragedy and mystique the Red Sox offered even before they rewarded their fans with a World Series, but what team anywhere could?

Some of this relative (we are talking about sports-crazy Boston here) indifference was due to the inherent "national" scope of the NFL and its television deal; in those days before the World Wide Web and dozens of sports-oriented cable channels it was far easier to follow a non-local NFL franchise than it was for any other sport of the time. And almost every game was on Sunday afternoon, so even if your favorite team wasn't being shown, there would be highlights at halftime. In the other sports, there would be a lot more hunting in the local newspaper on random days to see how your team did.

It didn't help that they played not in Boston but in the relative backwater of Foxoborough, and a long, slow traffic jam on Route One awaited every visitor to the Patriots' home stadium. And when they got there, travellers were greeted with one of the ugliest and most uncomfortable venues the NFL has ever seen. Most spectators had to make do with aluminum benches that were often caked with ice and/or snow for late season games. It was home to exactly one historically memorable game, which also happened to be very last game played there.

The Patriots at the time were a young team, especially compared with the other three franchises, with far less historical support. There were many in the area old enough to remember a time in NFL history when New England lacked their own team, and many of them adopted the nearest team, the New York Giants, and some didn't let go of Big Blue just because Boston got an AFL (later AFC) franchise. Some of these Giants holdouts, particularly in Connecticut, passed on those leanings to their offspring.

And, of course, the Patriots were medicore at best during most of their history, right up until just before this improbable run at atop the NFL. Their best regarded player until a few years ago was John Hannah - an offensive lineman. Now he was a damn good offensive lineman, but the fact that no quarterback, running back, wide receiver, or even tight end, linebacker or defensive back was more revered in team history tells you everything you need to know about the decided lack of star power - and of success - that the franchise historically could lay claim to. If, back then, you were to start naming all-time great Boston sports figures, you'd have mentioned at least a score and change each of Celtics and Red Sox, plus a dozen or so Bruins - not to mention some boxers and long-distance runners - before you'd even consider naming a single Patriot.
Some could've-been great players passed through but had more success elsewhere - Jim Plunkett, with the hated Raiders; Irving Fryar, first with the hated Dolphins and later with the Eagles; local hero Doug Flutie became a star in Canada and later was a much better player for Buffalo than he had ever been in a Patriots uniform. Prior to the no-brainer selection of Drew Bledsoe, there wasn't a high draft pick they couldn't botch.

Prior to the Bill Parcells Era, the coaches were of even less note than the players. Most of them never coached anywhere else, not even Raymond Berry, who shephered the Pats through one of their few periods of relative prosperity. Ron Erhardt. Ron Meyer. Rod Rust. Dick McPherson. Ugh.

Though they couldn't quite match the New Orleans Saints or the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals, among others, for sheer incompetence, the Pats made up for it in embarassing themselves on and off the field. They had quite the penchant for leading the league in Unintentional Comedy. In the late 1970's, Chuck Fairbanks, after his final game as head coach, was escorted out of the stadium by security after his final game. Right after the debacle that was Super Bowl XX (a 46-10 loss to the Bears), it was discovered that some Patriot players had been using cocaine just before the big game. During the particularly ugly 1991 season, a female reporter named Lisa Olsen became more famous than any playing for the team at the time by her allegations that Patriots players sexually harassed her in the locker room. The money quote, "Step up to the mic," came from Zeke Mowatt. As if that wasn't embarassing enough, team owner Victor Kiam made the following tasteless joke.
Q: What do Saddam Hussein and Lisa Olsen have in common?
A: They both got to see Patriot Missles up close.


Given all this, it's not surprising that a lot of local kids decided to place their allegiances elsewhere. There were the Steelers, they of the Steel Curtain and 4 Super Bowl wins during the 1970s; Dan Marino's high-scoring Dolphins, who ensnared, among others, my younger sibling; the Silver and Black Raiders, the team seemingly everyone else loved to hate; the Cowboys, who billed themselves as America's Team; John Elway's Broncos; the Redskins, known for John Riggins, the Hogs, and Coach Gibbs; the 49ers and their high-flying West Coast offense; and the New York Giants, who never lost the loyalty of many in the Bay State. Every one of those teams had a sizable cheering section where I grew up, in the very heart of New England.

Eventually, those of us that stuck with the local team, through the days they were nearly exported to St. Louis, through the years when they were the laughing stock of the NFL, through the alternation between near-misses and spectacular flops, were rewarded. Everyone who stayed in the area eventually claimed the Pats as their own, but some of us remember the bandwagons many fair-weather fans were on when we parked our cold asses on those aluminum benches. In that sense it was nothing like the region-wide love-fest that took place following the Red Sox October 2004 Miracle.

Those of you (whether you love or hate the Patriots) with short memories would be advised to check out this old Bill Simmons column, from just before their first Super Bowl win, which gives the reader a decent summary of the history of this team, and just why what has transpired in the last four years is so improbable, so mind-blowing. (Although he says not a word about the Lisa Olsen mess, a conspicuous absence given the otherwise expansive nature of the account of the Patriots' many shortcomings over the years.) Anyone outside the Boston Sports fan circle (or even inside it) who has grown tired of Simmons' relentless Patriots woofing would barely recognize the tone.

We will try to insist that this team, unusual among teams deemed to be NFL dynasties, is relatively light on instantly recognizable names, Pro-Bowl caliber superstars, and flashiness. The post-scoring revelries on the field during the most recent Super Bowl they performed showed the limitations of the media's portrayal of the Patriots as "quiet," workmanlike," and "selfless," but we'd like to think they don't generate the same animosity that, say, the early 1990s Cowboys did. But maybe they do, as evidenced by numerous complaints about the play of the New England defense in general and the secondary in particular. As hard as I tried to not sound like a Yankee, Laker, or Cowboy fan with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement during my series of exchanges with Eagle fan Rick, I just know that some arrogance slipped through. What can I say? This team inspires the kind of confidence I never thought I would ever see again in Boston after the close of the Bird Era.

For Boston Sports Nation, this is a strange position to be in. Three Super Bowls in four years to go with the breaking of the legendary Curse of the Bambino. After years of playing the long suffering gluttons for punishment, we find ourselves having to redefine our identity. But I will gladly take this new confusion without so much as a second thought.

Nothing is forever in the NFL,especially in a time of salary caps and widespread free agency, and the time will come, possibly sooner than most would guess, that the New England Patriots will find themselves in the lower reaches in the standings once again. We'll have these times, the best of times, to look back upon.

This is where Patriots Nation comes from. If this kind of reversal of fortune can happen to this franchise, it can happen to the one that makes you cry too.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Bowl XXXIX(The Last Word)

New England 24, Philadelphia 21

Onside kick...into Christian Fauria's arms. Patriots have the ball at the Philly 41. Only a turnover, a VERY quick 3-and-out, followed by a sensational punt return, or a Hail Mary could save the Eagles. The Eagles get the quick 3-and-out, and the Pats give the Eagles the ball back. They had a shot, a distant shot. But Rodney Harrison finished it.

New England, 24-21. Clock running out in the Eagles, even as the take what the Pats give them and their wideouts made some nice catches. McNabb still looks erratic but getting enough throws to keep hope alive in Philly. They foolishly burned one time out on defense in the Third Quarter, so their margin of error is approaching zero. Just as time was closing in..McNabb threw a perfect throw to Greg Reed. The injury to Eugene Wilson once again hurt. Crowd, clearly with a pro-Eagles majority, goes wild.

Super Bowl XXXIX Diary (Part V)

The Eagles have got their back to the wall down 10. It's far too soon for the Gatorade shower, but the Eagles can't really afford another 3-and-out. Troy Aikman ominously commented that a win here would make, in his mind, this incarnation of the Patriots a greater team than his early 1990s Cowboys. One play later, Terrell Owens burned Randall Gay (perhaps the biggest mismatch since Michael and Lisa Marie.) And then....McNabb made a terrible throw and got picked off, just as the Eagles were nearing Akers' field goal range. The Patriots 3-and-outted, giving the Eagles life, albeit with two fewer minutes on the clock - nearing the point where the Eagles would need a successful onside kick to prevail if they didn't get some quick points. Definitely four-down territory.

New England, 24-14: Philadelphia lost 6 yards on their first drive of the 4th, and left New England with great field position with which to have the opportunity to really put the Eagles on the ropes. A great catch by Brady and an even better catch by Deion Branch, couple with a roughing the passer penalty (the hit on Brady was totally off-camera) on the Eagles, put the Pats in the Red Zone. The Philly defense stiffened up from there, showing why they are so well-regarding, and the Pats had to settle for a Viniateri chip-shot.

New England, 21-14: Dillon and the short passing game got it done for the Pats. Deion Branch, who was missing for much of the season and was missed even though they won most of their contests, is having an outstanding game. Every time one team got the upper hand, the other team answered in fairly short order; we'll see if the trend continues.

Super Bowl XXXIX Diary (Part IV)

It hasn't been the best played Super Bowl of all time, to be sure, with penalties and turnovers not take advantage of, but it is two well-matched teams, clearly the best the NFL had to offer. This is, amazingly, the first Super Bowl in history knotted through three quarters.

Tied, 14-14: The stalemate briefly resumed as the New England defense held up one drive, holding the Eagles to one first down, but the Eagles macthed them deep in New England territory. And then the secondary looked like the weakness it is again, especially without Eugene Wilson; they couldn't do anything as the Eagles marched up the field as if the defense wasn't there. The pass rush was blitzing but McNabb still had time to make every throw, and he made most of them.

New England 14-7: Way to make a statement on the opening drive. The Eagles defense found an answer for Dillon, but their blitzes were ineffective at getting to Brady on that drive, and Brady and the receiver corps made them pay. We'll see if the defense can keep the momentum on the Patriots' side.

The Eagles' kick and punt return guys have been pretty good. Special teams is what won the Patriots their first Super Bowl three years back, so we're especially wary of seeing a standout play on special teams turn things around. The Eagles have marginally outplayed the Pats in special teams.

The Patriots are marching up the field as the quarter ended - with the feeling that a score was imperative given how easy the Wilson-less secondary looked to throw on over the course of the last drive.

Super Bowl XXXIX Diary (Part III)

After the second scoreless first quarter in Super Bowl history, and the second in as many years, both teams predictably got on the board in the Second Quarter.

Philadelphia 7-0 : Patriots' defense had been left out there too long - that was going to happen eventually. This isn't a good secondary, apart from Rodney Harrison, and Reid's been doing the right thing by continuously going down the field, something Ben Rothliesburger and Bill Cowher couldn't do effectively two weeks back. Brady and company have to respond pronto; one first down in a quarter isn't going to get it done. The offense was partway to blame for this since the time of posession figures were starting to look ugly there.

Tied 7-7 : The Pats' offense finally showed some life, and just when it looks like the Pats were going down the field to do what they've done time and time again...Brady fumbled the ball. I've never seen Tom Brady just flat-out choke quite like that in his career, fumbling the ball as they looked about to score. The defense forced a 3-and-out, avoiding the momentum shift that could have potentially knocked the Patriots down for the count. They were beating the blitz with the screen, and Dillon got some good runs in. The short passing game began to work in the second quarter and helped keep the Eagles defense honest. Nice engineering of the scoring play by Brady (or the coordinator) to Givens to put the Pats on the board. Good way to grab the momentum back. Viniateri puts the equalizing PAT through the uprights with 1:10 to go.

Interesting exchange in the final minute of the half as Reid and Belichek continued their chess match. The Patriots played a prevent and when Reid adjusted switched strategies. The Patriots can ill-afford to lose another defensive back, and Eugene Wilson was injured during the final kickoff of the 2nd Quarter.

An Eagles fan has to be pleased, and a Pats boosted holding his breath a bit. But the New England offense is now moving, McNabb still looks shaky, and I stand by my original 27-20 prediction - for now.

Super Bowl XXXIX Diary (Part 2)

First Quarter Thoughts:

Pats offense hasn't really gotten untracked - Eagles have been agrressive, and have only been burned by it (mildly) once. They have to take better advantage of the turnovers the defense is providing. Dillon hasn't been a factor yet, and I have to wonder if they shouldn't be running on 1st down more often to stay out of the 3rd and longs thew Eagles excel at defending against.

McNabb looks generally bad - Owens and L.J. Smith (and the officiating) have largely bailed him out thusfar. Eagles have done nothing on the ground - Johnson's punts have outstanding and that's helped Philly a bunch in the field position battle.
Some of the weakness in the Pats' secondary have been exposed, but due to some poor play in some key spots by Eagles players it hasn't hurt them yet. And anytime you can sack a guy like McNabb essentially three times in one quarter, you have to give props to the pass rush.

Super Bowl XXXIX Diary (Part I)

Moments before kickoff...I am home, by myself, trying to fight off a bit of a cold. Finally, Super Bowl XXXIX is only a few minutes away.

All the hype ceases here, and the real action begins.

Philadelphia won the toss, but the Patriots always lose the opening coin toss, and it never seems to bother them.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Fargo Rock City

You know...I've always been kind of the contrary and rebellious sort, the kind of guy who'd be more likely to do something if I was told specifically not to do it.

Like walking on grass where it says "Keep Off The Grass," where it never would have occurred to me to do so in the absence of the sign.

If you had asked me all the places that I ever wanted to go, a George W. Bush rally at which he would attempt to explain elements of Social Security reform* plan in, of all places, Fargo, North Dakota, would show up pretty low on the list. Especially in February.

Until now.

If the Bushies can create a list to keep people out of a photo opportunity in North Dakota, they can create one with far more insidious purposes.

* Yeah, I'll get to that sometime later.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Territorial Pissings

I just realized that the largely frivolous post I just made below probably made more sense to put in The Annex, whereas somethings that were probably better suited to this blog wound up over there.

I guess I just wanted to put up something that wasn't political, and my running series at the Annex with Rick is sopping up whatever football-related thoughts I might have at the moment.

Groundhog Day

Since he saw his shadow on Gobbler's Knob this morning, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted 6 more weeks of winter.

We have no idea whether Phil Connors ran into Ned Ryerson again this morning.

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